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Responding to women's challenges for a fair and more productive rice farming in Mali

In Mali, like in many other countries in Africa, both men and women participate in agricultural activities, particularly in rice-based farming. Because rice farming requires access to land, availability of and access to agricultural equipment and inputs, and financial resources, socio-economic and cultural barriers limit women’s effective participation in rice-based farming. Those barriers make agriculture a men-dominated sector, thus making it difficult to value women’s contribution in agriculture. Women have limited access to Climate Information Services and Climate Smart Agriculture technologies which is making them more vulnerable to climate change.

Grassroot level solutions exist but are poorly adopted. For instance, Mali enacted a law including a provision to allocate 15% of land developed for farming to women, youth, and vulnerable people upon request. It is, however, worth noting that the set criteria do not favor women enough. Women are reluctant to apply for land due to the lack of confidence in their abilities to meet financial needs required for rice farming. Another major challenge in the application of this law is due to socio-cultural constraints. Women still think that it is the men who have to apply for the plots from the agricultural authorities.

Women are often allocated lands with reduced soil fertility and lower water-holding capacity compared to men, constraining their agricultural productivity and resilience to the impacts of climate change. Another challenge is the limited access of women to lands in irrigated systems often due to interruption of land development by the agricultural authorities, hence very few women in reality own land in the developed irrigated zone. With the support of partners such as the French Development Agency, the AfDB, the European Union, the World Bank, Global Affairs Canada, etc., the government of Mali developed some lands for rice farming. The distribution of developed lands is governed by the law. To increase the number of women owners, there is a need to develop more lands.  However, as the government of Mali does not have an endogenous mechanism to continue the development of rice plots, it has become a challenge to increase the number of women owners of rice farming lands. In addition, as Mali has a growing population, there is a need to develop more agricultural lands to satisfy the demands. In this way, plots development will make it possible to manage the hazards related to rainfall and other productivity hazards, thus contributing to solving the problem of food security.

As a response to these challenges, AfricaRice is disseminating gender sensitive technologies in Mali through Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project.  Their large-scale adoption could help female farmers to be fully engaged in rice production.  Women have benefited from trainings on the development of Smart Valleys and were also given seeds of drought and flood tolerant rice varieties. They are informed and engaged in other proven gender responsive technologies and innovations being promoted in Mali such as solar pumps for boosting off-season vegetable growing, improved rice parboiling technology for processing quality and nutritious rice for their household’s consumption and selling, integrated rice-fish for diversifying income and improving food and nutrition security, RiceAdvice digital application for location of specific sustainable rice cultivation practices and climate information services for climate informed agricultural decisions.

AICCRA uses business models such as the Center for Mechanized Agriculture, Pay-As-You Go and Saving Clubs to enhance women access to finances, and accelerate the adoption of climate smart agriculture and climate information services. From 2021 to 2023, more than 50,000 women farmers have seen their yield, income and food consumption status increased.

However, policies that facilitate women’s access to land are needed to enhance their investments in sustainable and climate resilient innovations and improve their food and nutrition security and livelihoods.


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