A transformative approach that increased agricultural productivity, food security, and women's socioeconomic power
"Without the FARM project, we wouldn't have had the resources to work the land." This account from Ramata Diarra, a young Malian farmer, sums up the impact of the Agricultural and Rural Financing in Mali (FARM) project that Développement international Desjardins successfully carried out between August 2014 and June 2021 with the financial support of Global Affairs Canada.
Through this project, Ramata and other women in her village received support to form a women's cooperative, a loan to help them purchase inputs for their onion production, training in agricultural techniques to promote climate resilience, and advice on how to access markets more easily.
To increase productivity in the agricultural sector and improve the lives of Malian farmers, the project team used 2 main strategies:
- It built the capacity of financial and insurance institutions to help them become more efficient and inclusive providers of agricultural financial services
- It established financial protection mechanisms related to natural and environmental risks, including a loan guarantee program to encourage the participation of financial institutions in agricultural financing and a crop insurance program to help farmers and financial institutions better cope with climate risks and protect their assets
An integrated approach to help women overcome obstacles
In the Baguineda region, an integrated approach was deployed with women onion producers to improve both their access to financial services and their ability to act in their community. Women in this region were offered credit, savings and crop insurance products, as well as a financial education program, training on good agricultural and environmental practices, support for negotiation with value chain actors, and advice on governance and associative life.
An impact study conducted by the Department of Agri-Food Economics and Consumer Sciences at Université Laval showed that this approach had contributed concretely to strengthening the socioeconomic power of women.
Today, thanks to the FARM project, Mali's agricultural financial sector is stronger, more efficient and more inclusive. The project provided increased access to agricultural credit, especially for women and youth, and supported agricultural entrepreneurship, job creation and sustainable development.
Here is an overview of the main results of this major initiative:
- 6 financial institutions were supported: their methodologies were improved through the use of agro-economic factsheets allowing a better understanding of farmers' needs.
- Prior to the implementation of the project, some of the participating institutions simply did not offer agricultural loans. By the end of the project, nearly 27,000 agricultural loans had been granted based on the new methodologies implemented, 52% of them to women, for a total volume of CAD 11.8 million. More than 16,000 people have benefited from these loans, 56% of whom are women, and 5,034 jobs have been created.
- A loan guarantee facility was introduced to encourage financial institutions to finance agricultural production, an activity for which borrowers, especially women, have little collateral to offer. Nearly 17,000 borrowers have benefited from this initiative, 53% of whom are women, for a total volume of over CAD 8 million. The facility has been transferred to a local bank guarantee provider, which now manages it on a sustainable basis.
- 17 new financial products were designed to better meet the needs of farmers, including 2 digital savings collection products.
- 3 crop insurance products were developed in the rice, maize and onion sectors using an innovative approach, namely group crop insurance based on yield index: a first in Mali. 6,559 farmers signed up, 57% of whom were women.
- 11 concrete initiatives were deployed to support gender equality, 10 others aimed at supporting environmental protection and the fight against climate change, and 5 initiatives were successfully completed to help youth take their full place in the agricultural ecosystem.
By acquiring the tools and knowledge they needed to increase their production and earn a good income, Ramata and the women of her cooperative have been able to improve their living conditions and those of their families. One of them bought a motorcycle to facilitate her travels, another bought 2 tons of cement to start building a house. They also gained the respect they deserved through the leadership and communication training they received. Today, these women have the confidence to become true leaders in their communities.
Since 2014, the FARM project has helped more than 20,000 farmers in Mali, the majority of whom are women.