Mali: 'We have achieved a lot'
Mr Koch, what are the main challenges of working in Mali?
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. The sparsely populated north, in particular, has been marred by ongoing armed conflict with Islamist terrorist groups since 2012. Not much of the peace agreement signed between the government of Mali and separatist Touareg rebels in 2015 has yet been implemented. This fragile security situation has created difficult economic and social conditions. So we have to be particularly sensitive in all projects and involve the population broadly, especially in projects aimed at building peace.
What are the focal areas of your work?
We are currently implementing eight programmes on behalf of the German Federal Government. Some 30 German and international and 240 Malian staff are working in small-scale irrigated agriculture, water supply and decentralisation projects. The latter involves enabling thousands of communities to manage their own finances in order to provide people with access to schools, solid waste disposal, electricity and water supply connections. We also support the country’s stabilisation and peace process, and we advise our partners on climate change adaptation measures.
Stabilisation as a keyword: A state of emergency is currently in place in the country. How does this hamper your work?
We still work all across the country. Our security team thoroughly prepares all trips we make to the interior. Only our national experts work in the north of the country. But we are regularly in touch with our colleagues over the phone or at meetings in the capital Bamako, and this way we ensure that our project work goes ahead. Topics we discuss include specific actions such as deliveries of seeds and agricultural machinery, but also training courses for farmers.
Can the project objectives even be achieved under these circumstances?
Yes, we have achieved a lot. For example, we have supported nearly 1,300 women-managed small and medium-sized businesses in order to boost the local economy. Three quarters of these businesses increased their turnover by around 20 per cent, the 40 best performers by more than 120 per cent. We are also supporting the small-scale irrigation sector together with the Ministry of Agriculture. In one of Mali’s ‘grain baskets’, the Niger River Inner Delta, more than 90 per cent of the irrigation perimeters that have been set up are now being used by family-owned smallholdings. They have been able to increase their rice yields threefold compared with traditional growing methods. In the Bélédougou region the small farmers’ rice yields have even increased fourfold. More than 17,000 farmers have also been trained on a great variety of topics including innovative rice and vegetable growing methods and processing and marketing farm produce. The reason this is so important is that improved harvests mean higher incomes for the Malian farmers and thus help stabilise the country’s economy.