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Growing a future: "The cooperative has brought us together"

28th March 2024

Sékoura Diarra is a young mother of two who lives in Ouolodo, a small town and commune in the Koulikoro region of south-western Mali. Women and girls experience severe disadvantages in many aspects of life in Mali, including health, justice, education and access to land.

Whilst the Malian national land code provides equal rights for land ownership for women and men, men are usually the ones with access. She Grows was designed to support women in Mali to access land, implement effective land management practices and develop businesses using forest resources.

Sékoura and her family rely heavily on agriculture. In recent years, they have struggled to cultivate crops due to poor rainfall, affecting her ability to earn a steady income. Since joining She Grows, Sékoura has not only improved her income, but also her knowledge in processing non-timber forest products in a sustainable way. She is one of over a thousand women that we supported to through She Grows.

Sekoura's story: "The cooperative has brought us together"

"Before the project, our fields suffered enormously from rain and wind erosion," she says. "They were practically deprived of trees. The soil was poor and we did not have enough land to have fallow periods. I lacked the knowledge to solve this problem." 

As part of the project, ten agreements were signed with village-level authorities and women's cooperatives to ensure fair access to the land they work on. "The mentality of the community in general and the husbands has changed, as well as the social status of women," she says. "Women are no longer marginalised from society. Thanks to this project, women are starting to gain access to farmland." 

Being part of a women's cooperative has made Sékoura feel more supported and connected to the other women in her community: "Our cooperative is named NYETA. Being part of it has fostered cohesion among us, the women of the village, as we did not associate with each other before, nor did we know each other. The cooperative has brought us together, encouraging interaction, conversations, and collaborative work, all aimed at improving our collective well-being."

Sèkoura Diarra working with the women in her village to remove stones. They are all dressed in brighty coloured clothes and look happy.

"The cooperative has brought us together, encouraging interaction, conversations, and collaborative work, all aimed at improving our collective well-being"

As well as ensuring access to land, She Grows provided gender awareness and equality training to over 348 men and women. The women’s cooperatives were trained in nursery production, planting, beekeeping, land
rights, advocacy, communication, public speaking, gender, and shea butter production techniques.

"Public speaking was a real challenge for me", says Sékoura. "I am grateful for the various capacity-building initiatives directed towards women during the implementation of the project, particularly the training sessions on public speaking techniques for women, which has greatly benefited me."

These changes were achieved in a challenging context, where political instability in Mali impacted heavily on project implementation. Despite the challenges, She Grows made significant strides towards empowering women, increasing their incomes, and improving their participation in decision-making processes within the targeted communities.

"The project has significantly improved my living conditions. [It] provided us with thorough training, empowering us, the women, to continue processing these fruits, selling them to secure assistance. I intend to continue applying the new skills acquired during the project in all my everyday activities."

Find out more about how She Grows impacted over 1,000 women in rural Mali: