Improved Livelihoods and Food Security through Training in Climate-Adaptive Agriculture, Handicrafts, and Peaceful Relations and Economic Interdependence among Communities. (2022-2025)
Mali has one of the youngest populations in the world, with a median age of 16.2 years. The weak infrastructure, high population growth, and low levels of human capital are among many obstacles that hinder Mali’s economic development.
Food insecurity: About 18% of the Malian population suffers from food and nutrition insecurity. That is 3.8 million people, with 42% of the national population living below the poverty line and 24% of Malian children chronically malnourished. The Ségou region is located in the Sudanese agroecological zone of Mali. It is characterized by chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, among many others. These regions, where the population’s livelihood depends mainly on agriculture and livestock, have experienced localized production declines that have led to the rapid depletion of supplies. More than 80% of the population is in severe, moderate, or weak food insecurity.
Conflict, social and political challenges: The impact of natural disasters is compounded by social, economic, and political shocks that prevent people from producing or buying enough food and often lead to involuntary displacement and population movements (IDPs, returnees). The target area has been the scene of armed conflict since 2016. In recent years, the Segou region has hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees from the neighboring Mopti region following recurrent attacks on villages in the towns/counties of Bankass, Bandiagara, Koro, and Douentza since 2018. Since the beginning of the conflicts, insecurity has led to the internal displacement of more than 350,000 people, including 61% children and 56% women, mainly in the northern and central regions (Mopti, Gao, Segou Timbuktu, and Ménaka).
Conflicts are intensifying partly due to increasing pressure on natural resources. Added to this is the socio-professional diversity of the population (Bambara, Bozo, and Fulani, who practice agriculture, fishing, and cattle breeding, respectively). In addition, mistrust, hatred, and threats of revenge killings have destroyed mutual trust. Therefore, building the capacity for conflict management to strengthen social organization at the community level is essential. There are acute deficits in social communication. Young people risk becoming involved in violent interethnic conflicts due to a lack of opportunities to meet on peaceful platforms.
Lack of knowledge on climate resilient farming techniques: Farmers, especially IDPs/returnees, women, and youth, lack knowledge of climate-resilient techniques such as soil quality restoration and improvement, water mobilization techniques, adapted seed varieties and cropping practices, etc.; producers have limited opportunities or platforms for sharing experiences and deepening knowledge of successful climate change adaptation strategies.
Youth unemployment, Ineffective vocational training systems, and risk of recruitment by violent groups: Approximately 65% of the total population is under 24 (USAID, 2018). The Malian economy is fragile and unable to absorb young people who have completed school, let alone those who have dropped out and do not have a degree. While stability in central Mali is a key factor in the country’s overall stability, Ségou has a high unemployment rate among young people who did not complete their education. Nearly 12,000 (4,906 boys and 6,755 girls)  dropped out of school at the start of 2022.
Lack of access to agricultural inputs and credit: Affected populations have suffered significant losses of productive assets during repeated conflicts, and they have limited financial resources to (re)invest in agriculture, livestock, or trade. In particular, women, women-headed households (FHHH), youth, and poor people lack access to credit. Microcredit institutions are concerned about the risk of high crop losses associated with climate change and population displacement caused by insecurity. Families with people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by all of the above problems, making them the most vulnerable to acute poverty and food insecurity.
Since December 2022, RET Germany started to implement a project that aims to empower vulnerable women and youth socially and economically by promoting economic independence through training and participation in local committees/decision-making platforms and strengthening peaceful community relations the Segou region, namely in the counties of Segou, Macina, and Bla. Eleven municipalities are targeted by the project interventions, namely Pélengana, Sébougou, Sakoiba, Cinzana, Segou, Monimpébougou and Boky-wère, Macina, as well as Touna, Diéna, and Bla.
The project aims to empower vulnerable women and youth socially and economically by promoting economic independence through training and participation in local committees/decision-making platforms and strengthening peaceful community relations. This will be achieved through three pillars:
Employability and Income Generating Opportunities:
Improving employability and income opportunities for at-risk youth and vulnerable young women through enhanced vocational training opportunities involving government agencies and local businesses and supporting them in entering the labor market and starting small businesses. To achieve this, RET will put in place activities such as:
- Building the institutional capacity of apprenticeship structures, including local enterprises, through quality vocational training, targeting specifically the staff from the Ministry of Vocational Training and Employment Promotion (EFP) and other relevant government bodies with technical support to improve the planning, delivery, and management of vocational skills in Segou; the training and support of 48 local companies to participate in the vocational training program and organize apprenticeships; and finally setting up and strengthening three vocational training centers to provide quality vocational training.
- Providing vocational training courses in skilled and technical occupations, including apprenticeship and practical training and mentoring to more than 475 vulnerable youth and young women from multiple ethnic and minority groups, including people with disabilities and or households with disabled family members).
- Providing training in small business management and counseling to find employment or start income-generating activities to 475 at-risk youth and vulnerable young women, as well as providing start-up assistance (microcredit) and support for the creation of at least 40 income-generating activities/small businesses, and support for labor market integration
Improving the food security of vulnerable youth and young women through more home-grown food and climate-smart agricultural practices and cooperatives. To achieve this, RET will put in place activities such as:
- Providing training courses in climate-sensitive agriculture in 8 school fields set up in the first year to 765 young people at risk and vulnerable young women. Also, a construction/rehabilitation of 8 wells/boreholes to provide water to these school fields.
- Provide business management courses and start-up grants to 765 at-risk youth and support them in setting up 25 agricultural cooperatives for production and processing or supported in joining existing cooperatives.
Peaceful Community Relations:
Improving peaceful community relations of vulnerable groups, such as youth at risk of being recruited by militias, and integrating them into the local community and economy. To achieve this, RET will put in place activities such as:
- Providing conflict-prevention-oriented life skills courses and gender-specific life skills courses to 1,240 at-risk youth and vulnerable young women to prepare for their integration into vocational training and business courses.
- Establishing / strengthening and training 17 Conflict Mediation Committees, including minority groups, to promote social cohesion between different ethnic groups and communities and raise awareness of 17,000 community members for peaceful inter-communal relations and economic cooperation.
- Organizing 25 peace projects and dialogue events with the participation of different municipalities and promoting inter-municipal dialogue and social cohesion. This activity will directly involve 900 community members in implementing peace projects and dialogue events and in organizing 34 recreational activities, reaching 3400 community members to participate in inter-community recreational activities during the three years.
The project will reach more than 5,807 direct beneficiaries, including targeting more than 1240 vulnerable youth and young women from multiple ethnic and minority groups, strengthening the institutional capacity of government partners employees, and building the capacity of vocational training centers and local companies employees. The project will also support and train more than 190 members of the committees for conflict mediation and involve 900 community members in peace projects, and, finally, target more than 3400 participants in recreational activities. The project will indirectly reach more than 27,300 beneficiaries, including 17,000 community members and 6,200 family members of at-risk youth and young women, in a three-year implementation cycle from 2022-2025.
RET Germany is working in collaboration with the Vocational Education and Apprenticeship Support Fund (FAFPA), the Regional Directorate for Employment and Vocational Training (DREFP), the Regional Directorates for Agriculture, Livestock, Water and Forests (DRA, DREF, etc.) and their decentralized rural services and the Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Peace and National Reconciliation, and the Regional Reconciliation Assistance Team (ERAR), as well as the Committee for Community Reconciliation (CCR).
The project, implemented between December 2022 and December 2025, is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by RET Germany in partnership with ALPHALOG and REFOR, two local civil society organizations (NGOs) in Mali.