In the Sikasso region of southern Mali, women farm rice and maintain vegetable gardens while the men grow more lucrative cash crops such as cotton and potatoes. Women use the products they grow primarily for their families’ consumption and sell only small amounts of rice or vegetables when they need additional funds for household expenses. The current division of farming leaves men with greater incomes and women with minimal revenue sources and little, if any, purchasing power.
To address this imbalance, Abt trained members of the Bamadougou’s Association for Agricultural Women to farm potatoes as a means of increasing women’s income. The training was delivered via the USAID-funded project Integrated Initiatives for Economic Growth in Mali.
Abt trained the women in best practices, provided them with seeds and fertilizer, and helped them prepare and monitor loan applications. Hadjara Outtara took part in the training and, as a result, cleared profits that enabled her to pay off debts, purchase seeds and fertilizer and secure labor needed for the rice farming season, which began just a few months after the potato harvest.
Thanks to this training, Hadjara became the family’s breadwinner. “Any time there are expenses, I can take care of them,” says Hadjara. “This, I feel, is the most important benefit.”