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Hibiscus, a chance for improving living conditions of women in Fabana region, Mali?

By Johanna Gysin

Maimouna, MaliMaimouna Diakite, 47, lives together with her husband and her children in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Maimouna studied accounting and finances in Bamako and did later on further education in the field of teaching and education. She works as accountant for UNICEF Mali in Bamako. Since Maimouna felt that rural areas are in danger to get deserted and villages dying out with the recent developments, she decided to step into action.

She founded together with another woman the “Institut Africain Pour l’Alimentation et le Dévelopment Durable” (IAADD). The NGO is working in fields such as micro financing, food security, seed storage and education. The NGO is still very young since it only has been established in 2010. Nevertheless the NGO became officially registered and 9 people are now working together with Maimouna for the development of 4 villages in Farabana region in Mali.

The strategy of the NGO is to provide the women of the villages with knowledge on food hygiene and processing. The NGO promotes hibiscus and shea butter production, since these products are easy to plant and process and presently yield a good income on the local market.

“The situation of local women is very difficult: young people and men often leave the villages for gold-digging in the mines. They are not interested in the hard work and the insecure income in agriculture, all that they want is quick money”, says Maimouna. As if this would not be already enough burdens, the women also face problems with land ownership and dependence: “Traditionally, land is owned and inherited by men and income generated on the land belongs to the men.” This forces women into dependence of their husband.

Maimouna and her colleagues try to help the women of Farabana region with a simple idea: they promote and teach knowledge on crops, which can be grown by women on the borders of the men’s fields, such as peanut or hibiscus. All the income that can be generated by these crops belongs according to traditions to women. With this small income women can invest into improvement of their situation, they can improve food hygiene for their children, improve seed storage, processing and probably even invest in chicken or other seed for further production.

“Another means to empower women in the villages we are working in, is to organize them and bring them together.” Maimouna explains, that once women agreed on working together and build up trust, it is possible to install a “caisse”, a fund, from which women can get loans without interest to invest in their households’ food security and health.

“Presently our work for the NGO is not paid” says Maimouna. The work for the NGO is thus needed to be done in her free time and during weekends. A difficult situation, but Maimouna feels, that she was very privileged to be able to study and work and she would like to give something back to the less privileged. Getting funds is very difficult for a very small NGO like the IAADD, but Maimouna stays optimistic and committed.

It is thus a great opportunity for her and her NGO to be in Herrsching. “I’m very glad to be here. The seminars strengthen my capacities to work with groups of people and my communication skills. Also the network I can build up here is very valuable. And who knows, maybe I will meet here somebody that through his or her network will bring me and IAADD a step further!”