Impact Story: The proof is in the productivity-Advocating for women’s land access in Pathways Mali
“I’m very satisfied that the women in this network have negotiated and obtained this parcel with the official Deed… . It’s the first time in my village that women have asked for land—and also insisted on having an official Deed.” -- Village Chief, Amadou Plea, Soumatogo, Mali
Credit: Elly Kaganzi.
Last May in the village of Soumatogo, Mali, the village chief Amadou Plea, and the local mayor Seydou Diarra organized a community dialogue at which a collective of women farmers asked the chief for a piece of land. Their goal was to own a plot that they could collectively farm, applying new practices that would increase their yields, raise their incomes, and make sure their children were well nourished.
It Begins with Land
“I’m overjoyed to have built these competencies, thanks to the training on ‘Women’s Land Access,’ by the Junior Expert.” -- Madame Sata Diarra, President of the Soumatogo Women’s Collective
The women were even more elated. Madame Sata Diarra, the president of the women’s group, later told us how trainings in women’s land access, and agricultural techniques were making a difference.
“We women were able to build a compost pit on this plot, which enables us to create natural fertilizer, which is a lot less expensive than chemical fertilizer, and means we don’t have to pay the cost of transport (to markets). This [will enable] us to improve our yields per hectare,” she said. And they did.
The women’s collective was working with the Nyeleni project, part of CARE’s Pathways to Empowerment program.
The project works with women’s collectives to secure land, disseminate improved agricultural practices, develop market skills, and build gender awareness and nutrition knowledge.
And it all started with secure access to land.
“We can’t do demonstrations on little individual parcels. We need larger collective plots that women have secure long-term access to. Advocating for women’s group plots is a foundational activity. We also certainly to encourage women to get access to bigger sizes and more productive land at the household level." -- Boniface Diallo, Nyeleni, Mali
Path to Empowerment
“Our goal is long-term or permanent land agreements. This way, the women can construct the infrastructure (storage sheds, processing mills, etc.) that they need to develop their farming as a business.” -- Boniface Diallo, Nyeleni, Mali
In order to build support for women, we’ve emphasized the importance of involving the Commune Authorities or the village chiefs who are authorized to allocate land—and we know that the poorer-quality land often is given to women. In our advocacy, we make it clear that we work with this commune to improve women’s livelihoods, but only on the condition that women are provided with good quality land. Some of the chiefs are reluctant at first, but when faced with the possibility of the project going to a neighboring chiefdom, they accept.
Three Key Activities
“The dialogues generally take place in the presence of the authorities and villagers, women farmers, and project staff. We use these dialogues to reassure men that women's land access does not present a threat to men, but benefits the entire community.” Boniface Diallo, Nyeleni, Mali
From Dialogue to Results
“The Pathways program develops models for transforming more gender-equitable agriculture systems at scale, and addressing some of the fundamental disparities and biases that disadvantage women. We’re finding that access to land is one the first and most challenging issues. Mali’s work with engaging community leaders to secure land for the women’s producer groups is a promising approach, and lays the groundwork for communities to gradually challenge and change other gender beliefs and norms.” - Emily Hillenbrand, CARE USA
What began as a community dialogue to increase women’s secure rights to land has further strengthened the women’s economic empowerment, their confidence, and their standing within the household and community.
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