Fatoumata Almoudidjé is recognized as the most determined person in the fight against the climate change in her village Douekiré, Mali. This is her story:
Alarming effects of climate change
In this village, at the gate of the Sahara desert, 40 kilometers from Timbuktu, the effects of the climate change are very alarming. The agriculture in the area has become precarious and it is no longer giving sufficient output to ensure the food security of the population.
However, with the support of Diakonia’s partner organization AMSS, the population and the decision makers have mobilized themselves in order to stop the man-made degradation of their environment.
Fatoumata together with some of the other women in her village Douékiré, near Timbuktu. Diakonia's partner organization AMSS works together with women who are growing tree plants. The sales of the plants gives the women an income and independence, at the same time as it helps stopping the degradation om the environment.
A role model with ambitions for the future
Fatoumata, from a lower cast and a mother of seven children, is one of the pioneers, today serving as a role model for others. In addition to the family’s small-scaled farming activities, she is a community leader of other women in Douékiré and above all the creator of a very successful nursery in Douékiré. However, her ambitions for the future go far beyond what she has already achieved.
Lack of water leads to food insecurity
Everything has not always been easy for Fatoumata. Her family, as well as many other families in Douékiré and the surrounding areas, lost their principal means of production as the land where they used to cultivate their food has been deteriorated during the last 10-15 years.
This is because many formerly flooded lakes have dried up due to climate change and man-made draining of the lakes to manage recurring droughts. Trees and other fragile natural resources are under threat of extermination. As a consequence, the agriculture in the area is no longer able to ensure the food security of the population.
In order to overcome this impasse harmful to life itself, people who used to be dependent on the water of the dried lakes have developed a number of survival strategies. Many men have moved to areas less affected by drought to sell their labor force to other landowners.
The women, less able to leave their home, have found their resort in the cutting of trees to sell wood, coal and manufacturing mats. Most often illiterate and without any other training, the women found no other way out for the survival of their families than in the abusive use of natural resources. The women used to get most of their income from such activities. At the same time they contributed to accelerate the spreading of the desert since the wind and rain rapidly remove the fertile soil as soon as there are no trees and bushes to hinder the erosion.
Took up the challenge for survival
Fatoumata refused to resign by accepting this situation as inevitable. Instead she chose to fight against it. She took up the challenge by investing in an activity formerly reserved for men: she set up her own tree nursery on the banks of the river.
In fact, Fatoumata inherited the skills of nursery from her own mother. While it remained a very small-scaled activity for her mother, Fatoumata had the chance to profit from an opportunity offered by the organization AMSS.
Sustainable management and conflict prevention
In collaboration with Diakonia, AMSS started a project for sustainable management of natural resources and conflict prevention in Douékiré and four other neighboring municipalities in the province of Goudam. The strategy of the project was to support primarily the women to develop sustainable methods to use natural resources and get access to land. AMSS used the existing women’s organizations to raise the consciousness of the women about their role in the environmental degradation and to mobilize them to take up the fight against it.
A business that involves many women
Through her participation in the sessions of “Communication for Behavior Change” held by AMSS, Fatoumata learnt and reflected upon the role and place of women in the preservation and management of natural resources.
Convinced that she could take action to change the situation in Douékiré, this woman from one of the lower casts in the society decided to ask the local political and traditional authorities for a parcel where she could start a nursery of trees. Fatoumata’s request was approved and she soon started managing her own nursery at the banks of the river in Douékiré.
The business grew rapidly, since there was a demand for saplings not only in Douékiré but also in other villages in the area. In times of high demand Fatoumata started to involve at least 40 other women from the women’s association in Douékiré in order to meet the orders. In this way, she contributes to the income and well-being of many families. The organization of the women in Douékiré is also strengthened since the women can more easily pay their monthly contributions to their organization with the money that they earn from working in the nursery.
Now the main supplier of tree plants
Eventually Fatoumata has become the main supplier of tree plants such as eucalyptus in the municipality of Douékiré and its surroundings. Today, her production capacity is more than twenty thousand saplings per year. She manages to sell plants at a turnover of 16.000 SEK paryear, equivalent to almost three times the minimum wage in Mali. She recognizes today that she is doing well in her business.
Financially independent - a new position in life
Fatoumata, who earlier did not have any resources at all, is today able to ensure family expenses such as food, education, health as well as the costs that have to be paid for the marriages of her four daughters.
As a result of her important contribution to the expenditures of the household, Fatoumata feels more valued in her family. Her new financial independence has given to her a stronger position in the decision making not only in her own household but also within the community. Fatoumata occupies an increasingly important social place in Douékiré. Very committed to the emancipation of the woman, she is a leader of the women’s association of the village. She also trains other women in the production of seedlings and the establishment of nurseries in other villages in the municipality.
Fatoumata did never go to school so she is not able to read and write. Until now she is managing her business without holding any documents, but she wants to acquire training in literacy and recordkeeping management. She hopes this will be possible through the continuation of the activities of AMSS in Douékiré.
Wants to influence more in her community
Fatoumata would also like to have more influence in the community as a whole. In particular, she wants to influence men to make more concessions in order to change the highly traditional social system hindering women from enjoying their rights. Informed and educated about her rights, Fatoumata herself decided to be a candidate in municipal elections in 2009. She was not elected but she is not giving up her fight. "I'm going to run for elections again next time and I know that I can be elected," she says, as she looks proudly across the river, where the seedlings once planted in her nursery have already transformed the sand dunes into green hills.