New Strategies to Adapt to Climate Change

Irregular and heavy rains, extreme temperature peaks, dust-laden winds, and drought have become more frequent in Mali, putting farmers to the test. Helvetas helps communities to adapt to climate change and increase the resilience of their livelihoods.

  • Project Name
    Nyèsigi - Challenging climate change through sustainable energy and resilient agriculture.
  • Project Phase
    2020 to 2023
  • Funding
    Donations, programme contribution
  • Thematic focus
    Climate & Disaster Resilience
    Gender & Social Equity
    Food & Nutrition

Floods, drought and depleted soils

"Previously, we would start planting right after the first rains. Today, we know that for a successful harvest, planting can only take place when at least 30 mm of rain has fallen, so that the soil is sufficiently moist," says Sidiki Coulibaly, farmer and weather data collector in M'Penesso, in the south of Mali.

In Mali over the past 30 years, the effects of climate change have become increasingly evident. Rainfall is now concentrated over a much shorter period of time and is therefore extremely abundant. Sometimes storms are so severe that they cause local flooding. Droughts, when they occur, are also more severe. Over-exploitation of land makes the situation worse: soils are depleted by conventional farming practices and are unable to retain water. Farmers are therefore tempted every year to move to new farmland by cutting what little woodland remains, aggravating desertification and food insecurity. The result: discouraged families, especially young people, leave in search of a better chance elsewhere.  
The Nyèsigi project, which in Bambara means "Let's build our future," works with small farmers and partner organizations to strengthen their resilience to climate change at different levels.

Meteorological information and adapted techniques

Changing conditions require farmers, herders and their families to change the way they work and establish a new balance with the ecosystems on which their livelihoods depend.

The first step is to learn how to plan field activities, and for this it is essential to have access to timely and reliable information on rainfall. Young people are trained to collect meteorological data using smart phones. These data are sent to the national meteorological service for analysis and for the elaboration of agricultural advice, which is then shared with the farmers by telephone and radio, or in village assemblies.

Farmers are learning to apply new, more sustainable production techniques, but they are also rediscovering traditional practices to rehabilitate poor land and conserve water. They use adapted seeds made available through a network of farmers at the local level. They are also encouraged to make the most of difficult situations: for example, growing short-cycle crops in the mud of flooded fields. 

The rice harvest has almost doubled thanks to the rehabilitation of dams and canals.
Farmers use cultivation techniques that rehabilitate soils and retain water.
Bintou Dembele collects precipitation data and sends it to the National Weather Service for analysis.
Agricultural advice is exchanged by radio, telephone or at meetings with farmers.
Agricultural production is increased by 30 percent through the use of seeds and adapted techniques.

Conserve resources and create jobs in green sectors

The impact of climate change on the availability and quality of natural resources on which the people of Mali depend jeopardizes household livelihoods and risks fuelling conflicts, particularly over access to water and land.

Conserving resources to reduce the vulnerability of communities and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most important challenges in the fight against climate change. But at the same time, it represents an interesting opportunity to improve the income of women and youth and creates jobs in the green economy.

The Nyèsigi project works to rehabilitate dams and increase water availability for the benefit of farmers, herders and fishermen. It also promotes the use of alternative technologies, such as improved stoves and ovens that use less wood for cooking, and helps to safeguard wooded areas. This innovation allows women to produce higher quality smoked fish that can be preserved longer.
With more fishing, facilitated by the presence of water in dams, and better technology for fish conservation, women can improve their business and earn more money to support their families.

In addition, in collaboration with specialized suppliers, the project trains and accompanies young people in the promotion of solar equipment, such as pumps that are installed in market gardening perimeters to facilitate access to water and increase production.

Women learn how to reduce wood consumption.
Dam rehabilitation also benefits fishermen.
Improved baking ovens allow women to produce smoked fish that can be preserved longer.
Women sell more fish and the money they earn allows them to better support their families.
Young people are trained on the installation of solar pumps that can be moved and controlled remotely.

Building a long-term response

Finally, Helvetas encourages municipalities to invest public funding in activities that increase the resilience of communities to climate change.

Climate & Disaster Resilience

Every year, we support over 1,000,000 people in adapting to climate change, reducing the risks of disasters, sustainably managing natural resources, and conserving nature.

How Helvetas Supports People in Mali

Helvetas is active in efforts to integrate young people into the labor market and improve education and the supply of clean drinking water in Mali.