The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is teaching women’s groups how to increase food prod
uction through a one-year drip irrigation project in the town of Gao, located deep in the semi-arid Sahel Belt in eastern Mali.
The Dripping Irrigation Pilot Project (DRIP) utilises a low-pressure and low-cost drip system, which is especially effective in more arid regions, such as northern Mali, where food scarcity is common. The technique reduces the use of water and fertilizer needed, allowing water to drip directly onto plants’ roots through a low-pressure piping system. Using Food-for-Training and Food-for-Work initiatives, participants are trained in these new techniques and also receive seeds and tools in order to grow and harvest their gardens, providing the food necessary to feed their families as well as market their produce, thereby substantially increasing their household income.
“Currently, the biggest concern for everyone is how to deal with the current food crisis,” said Fabiano Franz, ADRA Mali country director. “One of the main ways to address food insecurity and malnutrition is through agriculture, this being the main activity that women take part in, and can become their ma
in source of income.”
The success of many farmers in Mali is almost entirely dependant on rainfall and environmental conditions, which can vary significantly from year to year, causing unexpected food shortages. The DRIP pro
ject is expected to provide consistent irrigation throughout the planting season, improving the food needs of 120 women farmers and 720 family members. Once the project is successfully completed, ADRA plans to expand operations to other regions of the country. Since 2005, ADRA Mali has been partnering in
Gao with different local communities to fight malnutrition, implement activities including food distribution at health centers and schools, and emphasize health education for women. This project, which is scheduled to end in December 2008, is funded by ADRA UK, ADRA Germany, ADRA International, and the World Food Program (WFP), and is valued at more than $35,000.
In the Gao Region food availability remains stable despite high global food prices, the onset of the lean season which lasts from July to September, and an escalating rebellion by the nomadic Tuareg which has resulte
d in repeated raids and clashes in areas surrounding Gao, a town 745 miles (1,200 km) north of the capital, Bamako. Currently, Gao, with a population of 57,000 and located along the River Niger, remains under an unofficial curfew, according to a report by the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Because Mali is self-sufficient in millet and sorghum, which are an important part of the diet of most Malians, this Sahelian nation has not been as affected by the current food crisis, because it is not as dependant on rice as some of its neighbors. But concerns still remain. The price of rice, which has soared primarily in urban areas such as Bamako, jumped 27 percent in March 2008, its highest increase in the last five years, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Mali, with a total population of approximately 12 million, is the largest West African country in terms of landmass and is considered one of the poorest nations in the world, ranking 175 out of 177 countries, according to the Human Development Index published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The country also has low literacy rates, weak public administration, low per capita income, food insecurity, limited infrastructure, and one of the world’s lowest life expectancies and highest under-five mortality rates.