Chronic food insecurity is a serious concern in Mali. While malnutrition afflicts the entire population, it is the second leading cause of death in children under the age of 5. This landlocked Sub-Saharan country is in a nutrition crisis which is exacerbated by widespread poverty, drought, and instability from conflict.
For decades, the Alliance has partnered with villagers in Ouelessebougou to fight the issue of malnutrition with sustainable projects that emphasize collaboration and community. Since 1986, the Alliance has constructed more than 150 drinking and garden wells, created community gardens and provided nutrition, gardening and small farmer training. These efforts have decreased malnutrition-related deaths and illness in 25 villages.
Mali relies heavily on agriculture, which employs 90 percent of the country’s rural population. Lack of resources and education lead small farmers, who are most often women, to not be able to harvest the most productive yield or to plant crops that are not suitable in nutritional value. In 2014, the Alliance developed an agricultural program specifically aimed at village women and children. The Nurturing Nutrition program provides education on nutrition and gardening practices so women and children can work together to produce healthy food for their families. The program includes the OA Women’s Association Garden and school gardens.
Nurturing Nutrition Program
OA Women’s Association Garden
In partnership with Feed the World, the Alliance staff works with the Ouelessebougou Alliance Women’s Association garden to provide training and increase productivity. Past projects have included constructing pump wells, fences, a garden shed and installing a solar pump well. Since 2016, over 80 women have received training on efficient gardening and composting practices, increasing crop production and incorporating their garden produce into their family’s diets. They are taught how to manage products for consumption, sale and preserve products they cannot sell. The goal is to increase production so families have more to eat and have enough left over to make extra income. Many women work alongside children and teach them what they’ve learned about gardening, composting, harvest cycle, increased crop production and nutrition.
The Alliance believes in the importance of primary education to create a healthier generation free from the burdens of malnutrition. Hunger and ill-health in school-age children contribute to inefficiency in school and students with diminished cognitive abilities perform poorly and are more likely to drop out. Alliance teachers include nutrition training in the curriculum for all 12 villages schools. An essential component is basic practices of proper nutrition including using hand-washing stations, making healthy food choices and learning gardening principles. We know that by teaching the children how to have a well-balanced diet and the means to grow nutritious food, they will grow both mentally and physically stronger with increased opportunities for success.