Located in the heart of West Africa, Mali is a vast landlocked country in the Sahel region. The political and social situation improved during the last decade with peaceful democratic elections held since 1992. But the security situation is now volatile, with a coup in March 2012 and armed groups controlling the three northern regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. This has caused population movements in the country and into neighbouring countries.
Mali faces significant challenges in key development sectors and is ranked 160th out of 169 countries in the 2010 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI). About 69 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line, and more than one fifth of school-aged children do not attend school, three quarters of whom are girls.
More than 80 percent of the rural population is dependent on subsistence farming and livestock herding. Limited arable land, unpredictable weather, natural disasters (including drought, locust infestations and floods), environmental degradation and fluctuating commodity prices have led to numerous food security and health challenges for these populations.
Children are the most affected by these challenges. The prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition among children under 5 was reported as 15 percent according to the last Demographic and Health Survey in Mali.
WFP has been present in Mali for 47 years. Many of the early projects supported by WFP related to drought relief, the development of the milk industry, technical support to stabilize and restructure the cereal markets and food aid for refugees and those affected by conflict in neighboring countries.
WFP’s current operations aim to support the Government in meeting its development goals outlined in the Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper. While food assistance is provided to help poor, hungry households to take charge of their own development and to cope with natural disasters, it also fulfils five of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Country Programme contributes to WFP's Strategic Objectives 2, 4 and 5 by focusing on three main outcomes: (i) enabling communities that face chronic food insecurity to create sustainable assets and reduce their vulnerability to natural disasters; (ii) enhancing sustainability of livelihoods for children (especially girls) of poor, food-insecure households through improved access to basic education and; (iii) strengthening the Government's capacity to prepare and implement food security programmes and food crisis prevention and mitigation programmes. The current Country Programme has three components: support for basic education, support for rural development and support for food security.
Through the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO), WFP aims to fight/control malnutrition in food-insecure areas in Mali. The PRRO also seeks to improve the nutritional status of children under 5 and pregnant and lactating women, improve the nutritional status of people living with HIV and people affected by tuberculosis and improve nutrition-related practices and knowledge.
The Japanese bilateral project assists villagers in reclaiming swamps and small irrigated plots for rice production and seeks to build the management capacities of the local population, including government technicians, in good agricultural practices thus contributing to the reduction of poverty and food insecurity.
WFP is also working to connect Malian farmers to markets through the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative. The P4P initiative aims to reinforce the capacities of small-holder farmers to improve procurement practices, food processing and commercialization as a means to increase their daily incomes. Expected results include the creation of cooperatives which will enable small farmers to become competitive cereal suppliers on local and regional markets.
This will realign the way WFP buys food to better address the root causes of hunger.