By Elly Kaganzi, Technical Advisor, Economic Development and Market Engagement
Jemimah receives a rather unusual gift from the women – 2 white chickens
For the first time since the inception of the Pathways program, CORE team members were able to visit Mali last month. The on-going conflict coupled by the insecurity in the country had made it difficult to schedule a prior visit. At the height of the insecurity, work activities had come to a halt as staff in the field was evacuated to Bamako. However, conflict subsided, and the Pathways CORE team members were finally able to travel to Mali, including the Team Leader, Jemimah Njuki; Emily Hillenbrand, the Gender Technical Advisor; and Elly Kaganzi, the Economic Development and Market Engagement Technical Advisor. They were looking forward to seeing the work in Mali as reports had consistently shown good results and progress, despite the conflict.
After a long security briefing, the visiting team hit the road and went on to Segou. They conducted two field visits to sites outside Segou and a 4-day training that focused on integrating different components of Pathways’ technical approach. The emphasis was on the farmer field and business school (FFBS) as a Pathways model for implementation. There was also specific focus on gender and market engagement during this training. The Junior experts – that provide day-to-day training and support to farmers of the four partner NGOs – were involved in this training as well as the CARE field staff, including the M&E coordinator, agricultural support staff, and gender personnel.
During visits to the village authorities and other leaders, there was an overwhelming expression of interest and support for CARE’s interventions in the communities where we work. As a result of the advocacy efforts of Pathways, the two Village chiefs that we met said they had accepted and prioritized giving land to women farmers for the up-coming season for the production of sorghum, millet, and charlottes.
It is clear that the Mali team has invested a lot of effort in action research over the last year, which has helped to promote good agricultural practices for the production of rice (using Sustainable Rice Intensification Techniques- SRI). They have also done many technology demonstrations and increased productivity of charlottes, millet, and sorghum. Through awareness raising, capacity building, and technical assistance, the beneficiary women producers are more confident and able to speak openly about their contributions to family income and role in production.
Group preparing integrated seasonal calendar for millet during the training
Overall, the CORE team visit allowed us to see the strength and commitment of the Mali team and partner NGOs. The enthusiasm of their staff to improve the lives of their participating farmers was inspiring. Emphasis and focus on the coming season will need to be placed on integrating the different Pathways technical messages around nutrition, gender, and market engagement preparation. The action research process will be expanded into full farmer field and business schools, which will also integrate gender, nutrition, marketing, and sustainable agriculture. The CORE team left feeling confident that the Mali team will achieve success with their investment in the work in the communities. The Mali team was very hospitable and the visitors from the CORE team were pleasantly surprised by the warm, charming, and enthusiastic reception from the Bamako leadership team as well as the field and partner teams. We look forward to continuing to support and work with Mali.
Photographs © 2013, Elly Kaganzi/CARE