Credit: Treeaid, UK. Landscape in Mali.

Landscape in Mali. Credit: Treeaid, UK.

Political crisis, armed conflict, and drought have shaped Mali’s recent history. Following a devastating drought in 2011, food insecurity affected almost one-third of the population. In 2012, a military coup deposed President Toure, and Tuareg rebels and Islamist rebel groups fought the government for land and control in the northern region of Azawad.  Islamists ultimately wrested control of the region, and began enforcing their interpretation of Islamic Law. 

Four hundred thousand people fled Northern Mali. About half sought refuge in the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mauritania; the rest moved to other parts of Mali.

By February 2013, government-backed troops had regained control of the region, and in June 2013 the government and the Tuareg nationalists signed a peace agreement.

The Government of Mali is now working to restore stability to the country and rebuild a battered economy.  Agriculture and land governance are important to this process.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, and less than four percent of its land is arable—all of it concentrated in the fertile Niger River Valley.  But a lack of irrigation, and  increasingly erratic rainfall, constrain Mali’s agriculture. In addition, mounting competition for land and natural resources fuels conflict.


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Disputes arise between farmers and pastoralists over access to water, pasture, and land for farming. These disputes are complicated by unclear land tenure arrangements, under which the State has ownership rights and competing groups have use-rights.

Land-related challenges also pervade urban areas, which are predicted to grow 4-5 percent annually in coming years.  Ninety percent of the urban population lives in slums without formal rights to the land where they reside. Safe drinking water and sanitation are in short supply, fueling health problems.

The government’s Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali 2013-2014 includes a focus on improving food security and rural development, promoting the role of women in all sectors, and integrating environmental protection into policies and plans. To rebuild the economy, the government aims to strengthen the private sector and agriculture and has recognized the importance of land governance for “securing producers on their land".

Mali infographic

Total population 15,839,538
Rural population / rural poverty rate 10,307,453/50.60%
Share of women in agriculture 64.00%
Urban population / urban poverty rate 5,532,085/18.90%
Internally displaced People N/A
Total land area / Agricultural land as % of total 1,220,190/34.11%
Protected areas (as % of total land) 2.43%
Forested land (as % of total) 10.17%
Annual deforestation rate -0.62%
Land rights and access rating 0.483
Time required to register property (days) 29
Women's ownership rights 1.0
Large-scale land holdings 447,386
GDP per capita (current USD) 684
Agriculture as % of GDP 25.84%
Natural resource income as % of GDP 14.24%
Major natural resources gold, phosphates, kaolin, salt, limestone
Tourism as share of GDP 0.39%