From September 2014 to June 2021, Développement international Desjardins worked with several partners in Mali to improve the financial and non-financial services available to agricultural producers. The objectives of the Agricultural and Rural Financing in Mali (FARM) project included the development and deployment of a broad financial literacy strategy aimed at helping women develop the knowledge, skills and determination needed to make responsible financial decisions.
In the regions of San, Sikasso and Baguinéda, 1,765 women from 38 farmers' organizations participated in the FARM project's financial literacy initiatives. One of the keys to the success of these initiatives was that they were led by local leaders. Two leaders in each partner farmers' organization were trained to strengthen women's leadership skills, public speaking skills and financial literacy. In total, 76 women leaders received this training.
More than 700 initiatives were held between 2018 and 2021. Each of the sessions facilitated by leaders with their peers lasted about an hour. In keeping with oral tradition, they covered seven major topics: cash flow, crop insurance, mobile money, financial stress, business management, savings and credit.
"Through FARM's financial literacy training sessions, I've come to understand that one of the solutions to avoid financial stress as a farmer is by diversifying farm income sources. Since then, in addition to producing corn, I produce vegetable crops. The income from this secondary activity helps support my expenses and even put a little aside. Today, I help my husband with family and farming expenses," said Habibata Diawara, a corn producer.
At the end of the project, an evaluation was carried out to measure its impact in the Baguinéda region by Université Laval's Department of Agri-Food Economics and Consumer Sciences. Both quantitative and qualitative, this evaluation yielded the following findings:
- The women of Baguinéda changed their practices in order to save and set up contingency funds.
- They feel better equipped to defend their rights and interests, and are more aware of the role they can and should play in the community.
- These women are now more familiar with the services offered by financial institutions. Most of them frequently use these services, particularly for savings, and claim to be able to manage their economic activities independently.
- Lastly, they claim to have boosted the efficiency of their agricultural cooperatives, and they acknowledge the benefits of working together.
The FARM project was made possible with the financial support of Global Affairs Canada.