In Kayes North, Mali, as in much of the developing world, women do not own land and without this collateral cannot obtain credit. This lack is acutely felt in Kayes North because virtually all men of working age have left the impoverished district to search for work in distant cities. Sometimes they do not return for years at a time. The area is remote and arid. Two crops out of three fail. Cattle herds have never recovered from the severe drought of 1972-73.
The project established a revolving fund to allow women's groups to buy seed, fertilizer, water pumps for irrigation and mills to grind millet and sorghum, freeing them from hours of arduous hand labour.
The women have created home and market gardens. They sell surplus lettuce, carrots, eggplants, peppers, cabbages, onions and tomatoes in newly created weekly markets. The rich variety of vegetables helps to ensure that the diets of everyone, but particularly children, contain the vitamins and minerals essential to healthy and development.
Women in some 50 villages have now begun activities to increas and diversify food consumption, increase income, improve health and gain greater access to water.
The Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Development seeks to give rural women the same access to resources and technical training, the same legal rights, and the same level of participation in decision-making as men. Kayes North and projects like it are important because they lift the status of women in the community, a bold and crucial first step on the road to realizing the Plan's ambitious objectives.