In order to preserve Mali’s threatened forests, people need to find new ways of supporting themselves. instead of cutting down trees, villagers are given the opportunity to invest in beekeeping, animal husbandry or horticulture.
Photo: Birama Diabaté
Beekeeping a way of saving Mali's ecosystem
In Mali which is dominated by desert landscape, there is a lot of pressure on the forest, pasture land and arable land. Sorghum and millet, which forms the basis of the Mali diet is entirely dependent on the rain periods, but as climate change affects rainfall, crop yields decrease. To compensate for the reduced incomes, deforestation increases, bringing with it other major problems. The Sida-financed GEDEFOR programme will help preserve the forest by decentralising its administration and providing people with alternative livelihoods. In this way they can improve their ability to adapt to changing climatic conditions.
“We need to make people aware that the forest will disappear if the pressure on it increases. But as long as people are dependent on an income between the rain periods, they will cut down trees to sell as firewood,” says Mamby Fofana, programme director at the Swedish Embassy in Bamako.
Horticulture provides a new source of income that villagers are learning to invest in, where drilled wells provide the opportunity to irrigate small cultivations with lettuce, carrot, cabbage and occra, between the rainy periods. Beekeeping is another way to earn a living. In addition to providing the beekeeper with a good income, it has several positive side-effects.
“The bees need trees to gather nectar which means that those who invest in beekeeping develop a concern for the forest and try to ensure that it is not cut down. The forest also grows better as the bees help in the pollination of the trees” says Mamby Fofana.
In six months, a beekeeper can harvest up to 15 kg from a beehive, resulting in a profit of about USD 60 when sold on the market which is a considerable amount of money in a country where the average income is USD 300 per year.
The GEDEFOR programme is being implemented in the regions of Kayes and Koulikoro, Mali’s southern and western parts. Decentralisation, which is a part of the programme, involves moving the management of forest resources from the central authorities, who have been responsible up until now, to locally elected municipalities that represent the local people.
The training itself is conducted in cooperation with local players in so-called Farmer workshops. Besides being able to discuss their own experiences, the villagers learn about climate change and its negative effects and how deforestation leads to soil erosion and a loss of biodiversity, which makes the production systems even more vulnerable.
Mamby Fofana has visited several of the farmer workshops that have been held, and met many positive participants; “they say that the programme should have started earlier.” The positive impacts of the programme come from the villagers being able to see the results of their investments so quickly – horticulture provides a harvest within a period of one month.
When the villagers stop cutting down trees to sell as firewood in the capital, apart from preserving the forest this also leads to a reduction in the supply on the markets, pushing up the price of firewood.
“As long as wood is cheap, people will use their old woodburning stoves. But when the price of fuel rises, there is an incentive to buy more energy-efficient stoves, which in turn results in reductions in CO2 emissions,” says Mamby Fofana.
The programme GEDEFOR will be implemented in Mali between 2009-2012 with Mali’s National Directorate for Water and Forestry (DNEF) as the leading national counterpart. The other cooperating partners are village cooperatives, local authorities and some NGOs.
Sida is providing technical assistance and funding for the programme (SEK 19.5 million).
An extension of the programme is planned with a further SEK 6 million, in addition to funds from the climate change initiative. This is to ensure that the programme is integrated and expanded to other areas and to ensure that the results are disseminated.
Some of the achievements so far:
• In one of the municipalities affected, the integrated project has provided incomes for 200 people through agriculture and beekeeping.
• In another municipality, 200 farmers (including 180 women) have received an increase in their income and 250 hectares of agricultural land has been rehabilitated. Tax collection from agro-forestry has increased.
• Increased capacity e.g. through following the training of officials in areas such as results- based management and the use of enhanced equipment such as GPS devices and motorcycles used for the effective implementation of controlling efforts and surveillance.