Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, with over half the population living on less than US$ 1.25 a day. Mali’s food security has been rocked in recent years by recurring disasters including erratic rainfall, drought, and a military coup that triggered a political and security crisis. Though peace negotiations were concluded in 2015, the situation remains volatile, preventing large-scale return of those who fled to neighbouring countries.
Mali’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, which employs 90 percent of the country’s rural population. Most of them farm on a subsistence basis with little reinvestment in mechanization. Agriculture is increasingly being affected by climate change; already one of the hottest countries in the world, Mali is now experiencing even higher temperatures, less rainfall and creeping desertification. The northern part of the country, where poverty and food insecurity are widespread, is particularly vulnerable.
Chronic food insecurity and malnutrition are serious issues, with 25 percent of families moderately to severely food-insecure. In 2016, around 2.5 million people were considered food-insecure, with 315,000 experiencing severe food insecurity during the lean season. Around one in every three children under the age of 5 is affected by stunting (low height for their age), a condition caused by poor nutrition which affects physical and cognitive development.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is gradually transitioning from providing emergency assistance to vulnerable populations to strengthening the resilience of rural communities to secure longer-term food security.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Mali
Food assistance: cash based and in-kind
WFP provides food to internally displaced people and those returning to their homes, as well as supporting vulnerable communities with food and cash during lean periods between harvests. Where possible, the food distributed by WFP is purchased in Mali, helping to boost local economies. Where market and security conditions are favourable, WFP is scaling up the use of electronic and paper food vouchers to support local markets and enable families to buy their own food.
WFP works with local communities and the Government of Mali to build community resilience to problems and crises that affect food security. We have so far built a total of 3,966 community assets, including dams, ponds and canals.
Support to local farmers
WFP Mali supports local farmers by providing technical assistance and connecting them with markets where they can sell their produce. This programme, which supports the smallholder farmer value chain, is a collaborative effort between the Government and NGOs. WFP has so far purchased 14,583 metric tons of food from 17 farmers’ organizations, two of which are composed entirely of women.
WFP provides supplementary feeding and other nutrition support to several vulnerable groups, including underweight children suffering from chronic and moderate-to-acute malnutrition, and children under 5 who are acutely malnourished. We also provide nutrition assistance to pregnant women and nursing mothers, as well as supporting nutrition awareness activities at the community level.
One in eight primary school-aged children do not attend school, and only one third of those who do attend are girls. Education in the north of the country has also been disrupted by the conflict. School meals have encouraged children to return and stay in school. WFP normally provides a hot meal to 180,000 primary school children in almost 1,000 schools nationwide. This is often the only meal they get. Due to lack of funding, in 2016 WFP could only implement the programme in 60 percent of the schools in central and northern regions.