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 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, Contributions, SDC 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 has become unpredictable and brings short, heavy deluges that are too much to be absorbed by the dry soil, leading to runoff that can cause local flooding. Droughts, when they occur, are also more severe. Over-exploitation of land makes the situation worse; soils are being depleted by conventional farming practices and are unable to retain water. The result is that 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-scale farmers. Jointly with  partner organizations like Mali Meteo and local small enterprises, Helvetas supports 18 municipalities to strengthen their resilience to climate change.

Meteorological information and adapted techniques

Changing conditions require farmers, herders and their families to establish a new balance with the ecosystems on which their livelihoods depend. Traditional methods no longer work; farmers must find new ways and strategies to adapt to changing conditions. One crucial element is for farmers to have access to timely and reliable information.

The project Nyèsigi works with young people in the villages who are trained in collaboration with Mali Meteo to collect meteorological data using smartphones. This data is then sent to the national meteorological service for analysis and elaboration of agricultural advice. In return, Mali Meteo provides weather forecasts complemented with agricultural advice, which is then shared with the farmers by telephone and radio. At the community level, this information is also shared and discussed during village assemblies.

Farmers are learning to apply adapted production techniques in the context of their changing climate. At the same time, they are rediscovering traditional practices to rehabilitate poor land and conserve water.

An important project element is the introduction of adapted seeds. Adapted seeds are currently available at the local market through a network of farmers. The combination of agro-med service, adapted practices and seeds led the harvest of the farmers to significantly increase, and has positively contributed to food security in the region.

Bintou Dembele collects precipitation data and sends it to the National Weather Service for analysis.
The rice harvest has almost doubled thanks to the rehabilitation of dams and canals.
Farmers use cultivation techniques that rehabilitate soils and retain water.
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.

Conserving resources and creating 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, while at the same time mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, is challenging in the fight against climate change. But it also represents an interesting opportunity to improve the income of women and youth and can create new jobs in the green economy sector.

The Nyèsigi project promotes the use of alternative technologies such as improved stoves that use less wood for cooking and help to safeguard wooded areas. Thanks to the surplus of production due to better adapted practices and seeds, but also to increased water availability, there was an urgent need to conserve certain products to keep them available for a longer period of time. This complements the need to harvest as much as possible in good years of rainfall so that communities can retain a surplus for years when rainfall is low or even absent.

In addition to adaptation practices, the project trains young people on the promotion of innovative technologies. One example is solar pumps, which are installed in market gardening perimeters to facilitate access to water and increase production. Another innovation allows women to produce higher quality smoked fish that can be preserved longer, up to 12 months instead of a few weeks. 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. Off-farm activities not directly linked to rainfall are crucial to better cope with the changing climate in semi-arid regions like where the project Nyèsigi is located.

As the effects of climate change increase around the world, Helvetas is supporting the municipalities in adapting the activities in their development plans and in raising community awareness of the needs for behavior changes and investments to combat warmer temperatures and unpredictable weather events. 

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.

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