More on Mali

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa, and covers an area of 1,241,138 km2. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Report ranked it 179th out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index, and 150th out of 155 in the Gender Inequality Index.

Semi-arid, Mali consists of five agro-ecological zones. Northern Mali, which accounts for almost two thirds of the country, is in the Sahara Desert where annual rainfall is between 0 and 250mm. The central belt is Sahelian, with rainfall of 250 to 550mm. This is intersected by the comparatively humid Niger delta that extends north from the Sudan zone where rainfall is 550 to 1,100mm. The only region in which rainfall exceeds 1,100mm is the North Guinea zone in the far south. 

At 17.9 million, Mali’s population is relatively small, albeit growing at a rate of 2.9 percent. About 10 percent live in the three northernmost regions: Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.  Here, nomadic trade and transhumant pastoralism are the principle livelihoods. 

Agriculture, which employs 90 percent of the rural population,  is the engine of Mali’s domestic economy. Under normal circumstances, the country is self-sufficient in food and produces significant surpluses for export. However, all land belongs to the state and most farming is carried out on a subsistence basis with little reinvestment by tenants in modernization or mechanization. 

Mining is also increasingly important, with gold currently the country’s leading export. To some extent this enables Mali to withstand fluctuations in agricultural production and commodity prices. 

Climate change, however, is a major threat. Already one of the hottest countries in the world, Mali is experiencing even higher temperatures, less and more sporadic rainfall, and creeping desertification. Northern Mali where poverty and food security are endemic, is especially vulnerable. 

In recent years Mali has experienced a number of food security shocks: erratic rainfall in 2009 leading to a pastoral crisis in 2010, drought and severe food insecurity in 2011-12, and a military coup in 2012 that triggered a political security crisis which continued until 2013 when elected government was restored. Peace negotiations were concluded in 2015; however, the security situation remains volatile and many who fled to neighbouring countries are still displaced. 

Facts about Mali

  • Population of around 17.09 million
  • 43.6 percent live below the poverty line
  • 1.4 percent of adults have HIV
  • Life expectancy is 58 years

 Current issues in Mali

Mali’s population is subject to the combined effects of several problems. At present, these are: 

  • Poverty

Over half of the Malian population lives on less than US$1.25 per day. One in eight primary school-aged children do not attend school. Of those children who do attend primary school only a third are girls. Only 34.6 percent of all secondary-age children receive secondary education: 29.8 percent of girls and 39.2 percent of boys.

  • Chronic food insecurity

Chronic food insecurity is a significant issue: 24 percent percent of households in Mali are moderately to severely food-insecure. 

The Saharan and Sahelian regions in northern Mali are the most vulnerable to food insecurity. Here, the three-month agropastoralist lean season (June through October) places great financial strain on populations and limits access to food. In 2016 it is estimated that 2.5 million people will be food-insecure, of which 315,000 will be severely food-insecure during the lean season. 

Malnutrition is also a serious problem. Approximately one in every three children under the age of five is stunted. Poor nutrition affects physical and cognitive development. Although moderate acute malnutrition rates have stabilized, there are regional disparities, with some populations experiencing malnutrition rates well above the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold. 

  • Effects of the socio-political crisis

Despite a peace agreement signed in June 2015, insecurity, characterized by clashes between armed groups and terrorist activities, continues to affect people living in most of northern Mali. As of December 2015, over 61,920 people were internally displaced by the violence.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission MINUSMA, as well as civilian UN organizations deemed to be associated with MINUSMA, are increasingly targeted by armed groups.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Mali

WFP Mali is transitioning from providing emergency assistance to vulnerable populations to strengthening the resilience of rural populations.

  • General food distribution and cash based transfers

WFP is responding to the immediate food security and nutrition needs of internally displaced persons and returnees, as well as protecting people affected by seasonal stress, through general food distributions and cash based transfers.

Most of the food distributed by WFP is purchased in Mali, helping to boost local economies. In areas that for security reasons are difficult to access, WFP is using electronic and paper vouchers as a form of food distribution. 

  • Resilience-building activities

WFP Mali is collaborating with local communities and the Government of Mali to build community resilience and protect communities against external shocks. WFP is working to identify the most appropriate community assets needed to improve food security and thus far has built a total of 3,966 assets - including dams, ponds and canals. 

  • Supporting local farmers

WFP Mali supports local farmers through a Purchase For Progress (P4P) programme.

This programme, which draws on WFP partnerships in Mali, is a cooperative effort between governmental and non-governmental organizations to provide technical assistance to smallholder farmers, and to connect them to WFP and commercial markets.

WFP has purchased 14,583 metric tonnes of food from 17 P4P-supported farmers’ organizations, two of which are composed entirely of women. For more information, please see our factsheet Purchase for Progress – P4P in Mali

  • Nutrition support

WFP’s nutrition support in Mali targets three groups: children who are underweight and suffering from chronic and moderate-to-acute malnutrition; children under five who are acutely malnourished; and pregnant and lactating women. Focusing on the most vulnerable areas, we are providing targeted supplementary feeding and nutrition awareness activities.

WFP Mali is also piloting a community-based approach to nutritional health, the SNACK project, that addresses the critical first 1,000 days of a child’s life. 

  • School meals

Education in the north of the country has been disrupted by the conflict. School meals have encouraged children to return and stay in school. WFP is currently supporting 162,000 primary school children with one hot meal a day, often their only meal. 

World Food Programme partners in Mali

WFP cannot fight global hunger and poverty alone. These are our partners in Mali:

•    Afrique Verte (AMASSA)
•    Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) 
•    Catholic Relief Services (CRS) 
•    Conseil et Appui a la Base (CAEB) 
•    Farm Radio International 
•    Mali’s Ministry of Agriculture 
•    Mali’s Ministry of Education 
•    Institut d’Economie Rural (IER) 
•    International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)  
•    Millennium Village Project (MVP) 
•    Office des Produits Agricoles du Mali (OPAM)
•    Partnership for Child Development (PCD) 
•    Projet de Renforcement des Capacités pour une Agriculture Durable (PRECAD)
•    Siginyogonje 
•    Systeme d’Alerte Précoce (SAP) 
•    UNDP
•    USAID 

Featured Mali publications

  • Mali: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 411 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

  • Mali: WFP Situation Report

    A Situation Report is a concise operational document with latest updates on the World Food Programme's (WFP) response to an emergency. It gives an overview of WFP’s activities and informs the wider humanitarian community and other interested stakeholders about WFP’s response.

  • Mali: Emergency Dashboard

    The Emergency Dashboard provides a visual overview of the most relevant operational information related to WFP’s response in the emergency, including geographical, funding, and performance related information..

Looking for more publications on Mali? Visit the Mali publications archive.