Families in Mali Overcome Drought and Famine with New Water Sources

Sevare, Mali (September 7, 2012) –- Farm communities suffering from drought in northern Mali are developing new water resources to meet their agricultural needs as part of a long-term Near East Foundation (NEF) initiative in the region.

In the past year, over 200 households in four villages – nearly 2,500 people – have cultivated rice on previously barren land through the construction of new basins to collect rainwater runoff.

Along with the basins, NEF is providing drought resistant seeds for rice and other crops that are able to thrive in a dry environment and training farmers on improved cultivation techniques.

The threat of famine looms over much of Africa’s Sahel due to persistent drought. Despite a significant deficit in rainfall last year – 40 percent less than the ten-year annual average – farmers using these new techniques were able to harvest an estimated 90 tons of rice.

Without the new rainwater harvesting basins, none of this rice production would have been possible.

Because the infrastructure is low-cost and easily maintained, micro-basins offer a significant opportunity to improve food security on a broad scale.

“Solving the hunger problem in Africa will require more than improved seeds,” says Charles Benjamin, NEF President. “It’s also about introducing new approaches to managing water that are easily learned and shared by smallholder farmers, who represent the majority of producers in the region.”

Focusing on “non-conventional” water resources, such as rainwater harvesting and spring catchment, NEF training and support has enabled thousands of families to improve agricultural production, improve livestock nutrition, and in some cases secure clean sources of drinking water.

Additionally, many families have created market gardens to grow crops for consumption and sale – increasing their income by an average of over 50%.

To ensure that the families have adequate water for agriculture now and into the future, NEF is training community leaders to independently manage and maintain their new rainwater harvesting systems and training private sector entrepreneurs in construction and maintenance.

By the end of 2012, 500 families will benefit from rainwater harvesting and NEF trainings.

In the future, NEF plans to significantly expand its work to meet the growing need to harness non-conventional water resources for agriculture in the region.

Learn more in NEF’s technical brief Innovative Water Management: Adapting to Climate Change in Mali.


The Near East Foundation is a U.S.-based international development NGO leading innovative social and economic change in the Middle East and Africa. Founded in 1915, NEF has worked to empower citizens in disadvantaged, vulnerable communities for almost 100 years. NEF field staff – all of them from the countries in which they work – partner with local organizations to find grassroots solutions to their development challenges. Our “knowledge, voice, and enterprise” approach is helping build more prosperous, inclusive communities throughout the region. To learn more visit www.neareast.org.

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