Farmer Adama Guindo holding a goat in Bougouni, Mali.
Twelve volunteers assisted hundreds of Malian farmers under Browse and Grass Growers Cooperative (BGGC)’s Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) small grant project, Common Pastures: Sustaining Flocks, Farms, and Families in Mali. The program was a one-year small grant under Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA)’s Special Program Support Project (SPSP). During a combined 252 days in-country, volunteers worked to enhance the quality of life for sheep and goat farmers.
Highly skilled volunteers shared their expertise with 26 host organizations, including smallholder farmer cooperatives and agro-pastoral institutes in three regions across Mali. Their work ranged from tracking livestock grazing patterns and training young farmers on specialized marketing plans, to introducing improved breeding practices to increase flock productivity. The project also engaged three volunteer chefs to help local restaurants improve the nutritional value of meals, boost food security for farmers and expand culinary practices.
One team of volunteers, Rosemary Neville and Sharman Davis Barrett, provided training to cooperatives to improve their sales strategies. They also helped individuals identify marketing challenges and strategies to overcome them. “The youth who participated expressed a future of hope, progress and improved economic development,” said Davis Barrett. “These young women and men are looking for newer and more efficient ways to reach new markets and be a part of the overall growth of Mali. Thank you for allowing me this wonderful opportunity to share what I know.”
Malian beneficiaries also shared their appreciation for the volunteers’ assistance. Village chief Djeka Mariko called volunteer Chef Benedicto Marinas a “blessing,” for sharing his expertise on cooking nutritional meals with local ingredients. Volunteers trained 932 people, including 235 secondary and postsecondary students and 41 farmers with disabilities. “I am pleased with the training because I have gained a lot of information. I would like to receive a second training,” said one participant.
The praise shared with BGGC highlights the volunteers’ dedication to creating impact in their two- to three-week assignments. Thanks to Dr. Terry Gipson’s work with the Bougouni Small Ruminant Cooperative, beneficiary Yacouba Diarra said his goats are healthier, and his income has increased. Under volunteer Margaret Summerfield’s assignment, Madian Diarra, a widow in the Koulikoro region, learned how to successfully grow moringa trees, which will help her gain financial independence through a new business selling moringa powder.
In total, volunteers donated $118,440 worth of time working in Mali, and some want to do even more. “The biggest effect of my assignment on a personal level is the discovery that this kind of work can be so fulfilling, it can be addictive,” said BGGC volunteer and chef Benedicto Marinas. “I want to do it again and again.”