Pays Dogon women's groups – Mali
Entrepreneurship, microcredit and conservation of agricultural land
Pays Dogon in Mali is an area which suffers from poor soil fertility. Women have little to no access to education, credit or work, which results in great poverty. Furthermore, the advancing desert poses a great threat to the farmlands and therefore to food security. In Africa, women are the linchpin in the chain of cultivating, processing and selling food. Many women have the potential to run small-scale enterprises, but they seldom have access to a formal financial network. Microcredit could help these women to start a small business to generate more income and thus strengthen both their economic and social position within the community.
By promoting and training female leadership, self-organisation and entrepreneurship, the programme creates better prospects for over 7,000 women, so they can remain in their own living environment. The women are organised in small women’s groups, which have access to microcredit, so they can grow and generate extra income by developing economic activities. Additionally, efforts are made to prevent soil erosion and to preserve the farmlands. This is accomplished by planting the accumulated sand dunes, large scale cultivation of trees and by providing trainings on enhanced farming practices: the Green Desert Initiative.
The goal of this initiative is to strengthen the self-sufficiency of the population concerned. The earnings of the women increase the family income, which allows the family to purchase healthier food, medical care and education for the children and to put money aside for less prosperous times. The women feel strengthened by their mutual cooperation. They continuously see new possibilities to improve their living conditions and they work together to realise community projects.
The Green Desert Initiative fits into the international partnership (of UN, FAO and World Bank, among others) to realise a 15 km wide strip of forest along the full length of the Sahel region. Awareness and commitment of the population are imperative for this initiative to achieve sustainable impact.