The growing threat of widespread famine in Africa’s Sahelian region is gaining broader international attention. In Mali, NEF’s all-local staff have transitioned from efforts to build long-term resilience and mobilized to meet the basic and immediate needs of communities, with a focus on addressing the real threat of famine. NEF is now providing critical supplies and field support so that farmers can plant crops to feed the hungry.
Despite the April coup led by Touareg rebels and increasing political instability, the Near East Foundation (NEF) has continued to operate in Mali, where it has worked to improve livelihoods for almost 30 years – through a series of catastrophic droughts, coups, and armed conflicts.
This time of year is known as the "hunger season" and it occurs annually, not just during drought. Families already malnourished and reduced to one meal a day are now forced to eat their seed stock to survive, consuming what little seed they have set aside for the coming agricultural season.
This year, the outlook is particularly dire – with an estimated 18 million people in the Sahel region of West Africa facing a food crisis.
Almost all of the communities where NEF works in the Mopti Region and the southern part of Timbuktu have been affected by the coup and last year's disastrous agricultural season. An additional stress is being posed by conflict in the North, which is displacing people and livestock toward the south. Along the border of the Mopti Region, people are finding refuge where they can with relatives.
To help avert a humanitarian crisis, NEF is working to deliver fast maturing, drought resistant seeds to as many farmers as possible so they can plant crops immediately. NEF is providing training and tools for planting and harvesting the fields, and for storing food.
A significant deficit in rainfall this past year – 40 percent less than the ten-year annual average – has accelerated drought conditions. Through an NEF training program, two hundred farmers have used simple techniques to harvest an estimated 90 tons of rice, while their neighbors produced little to nothing.
In order to help more people, NEF is expanding successful trainings – like the rice program – and teaching communities how to manage their limited water supplies so they can meet competing demands for household and agricultural needs.
Many charitable and government agencies, including NEF, have sustained infrastructure damage during the past few months of turmoil. As a result, NEF staff have abandoned the Douentza office and are in the process of establishing a new headquarters in Sevare.
Thank you for generously supporting this project, which is delivering immediate help in Mali where it is needed most during this difficult time.
The significance of NEF’s work in northern Mali has taken on new meaning in the light of recent events. The lives of the people we serve have been thrown into turmoil by prolonged drought and now a coup d'etat and occupation by Touareg rebels. NEF's support in agricultural development – and the development of non-conventional water resources – enables greater self-reliance and stability in the face of this turmoil.
With NEF support, farmers groups in northern Mali have capture new water sources – in many cases distant springs in the escarpments above their villages – to set up market gardens. Through these gardens, NEF has helped build capacity in agricultural production techniques and contributed to improving food and financial security. Since late 2011, NEF has supported ten villages to establish market gardens, benefiting nearly 700 households and over 7,500 men, women, and children.
In these gardens, villages cultivate crops including shallot, garlic, eggplant, tomatoes, beets, peppers, okra, and potatoes, amounting to an estimated total production of almost 60,000 kilograms. These crops have a value of over $40,000. Since late 2011, average cash income for the families has already increased by 58 percent.
The gardens produce food for household consumption as well as food for sale. Families are now able to save money on their food expenses because of the food they produce in their gardens. Between the new income from sales and the new savings from household consumption of vegetables, participating families are experience an effective average increase of 108 percent in household revenue.
Helping communities develop non-conventional water resources – particularly spring catchment and rainwater harvesting – is a cornerstone of NEF’s effort to promote food security in the face of climate change. Along with very simple infrastructure development, NEF supports partner communities with organizing producer groups and building their technical skills in water management and agricultural productivity. Over the past 25 years, NEF’s efforts have helped dramatically improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across northern Mali.
The threat of famine looms over much of Africa’s Sahel due to persistent drought. NEF is helping farm families in northern Mali cope with drought by harnessing non-traditional water resources for agriculture. Rainfall during the last season was too low and did not fall when crops needed it most.
By developing water storage basins, NEF helps Malian farm families capture and store rainwater for agricultural use. This innovative technique provides a powerful adaptation method that can contribute to food security and poverty reduction in the face of climate change.
Through this technique, rice production can now be undertaken in vulnerable, dry zones where agricultural production with control over water resources was considered nearly impossible.
In late 2011, NEF Mali supported the construction of four new basins, covering a total area of 110 acres. In total, 212 households – approximately 2,425 people – have benefited from this new construction.
Despite a significant deficit in rainfall this past year – 40 percent less than the 10-year annual average – farmers using these new techniques were able to harvest an estimated 90 tons of rice.
This production assured that NEF partners were able to meet more than 30 of their food needs. Without the construction of water storage basins, none of this rice production would have been possible.
Through these activities, NEF also reinforced the capacity of 18 producer organizations, training them in improved techniques for climate change adaptation – the use of new seed varieties, cultivation techniques and field water management – helping them build resilience in the face of drier conditions.
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