Thousands of vulnerable Malians are able to break out of aid dependency, thanks to an Islamic Relief project that is rebuilding the economy of one of Mali’s poorest areas.

More than 46 per cent of Mali’s population live below the national poverty line in a country characterised by swathes of barren land, drought, and recent conflict in the north. According to the World Food Programme, three out of four families in the northern regions are moderately or severely food insecure. The figure is expected to rise as displaced people begin to return to their homes in the north.

It is thought that between 1.3 million to 1.5 million people will continue to need food assistance into 2014.

In Mali’s northern Timbuktu region, a three-year Islamic Relief project has been supporting communities in the remote Gourma Rharous Cercle. Before the project, malnourishment affected over 44 per cent of local people as the area – which was hit hard by drought and locust infestation – struggled to produce enough food.

Seven villages and two nomadic settlements in the Serere commune received support to build livelihoods – so people can earn a living and feed their families.

Protecting the environment for sustainable food security

Environmental protection was high on the agenda. Ten thousand trees were planted, and natural fertiliser used to prevent nutrients leaching from the land. Around 120 hectares of land was irrigated so rice, sorghum and animal fodder could be grown.

Communities were also shown how to conserve and bank cereals – which are particularly scarce in the commune – and we helped to set up small gardening plots to supplement the food needs of local people.

Beneficiaries received small loans, enabling them to set up small enterprises from which they can earn a decent living. Small farmers received efficient seeds and equipment.  They also learned how to decrease vulnerability to drought with environmentally-friendly agricultural techniques.

Over 5,600 people are directly benefitting from the Islamic Relief project, which has recently been completed.

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