Mali: A women’s cooperative has its eye on the international market

The women's cooperative in Yanfolila produces about 150,000 pots of jam per year. Photo: UNDP

Yanfolila is a small town in south-western Mali. With 12,000 inhabitants, it is the administrative centre of the Yanfolila circle, a region with huge agricultural potential where mango and shea products offer many economic opportunities. The Yanfolila circle alone provides a quarter of the country’s annual mango production, some 50,000 tonnes. However, mango is a delicate fruit which requires special harvesting and conservation techniques.

Korotoumou is a member of a jam-producing women’s cooperative known as Dijiguiya, which means hope in the Bambara language: “Before, our equipment consisted of pots and coal stoves, and the work was manual. We let our mangoes rot, we didn’t have either the means or the knowledge to succeed,” she says.

Highlights

  • Fruit processing creates jobs for rural women and helps farmers make better use of their produce.
  • The Yanfolila unit produces 150,000 pots of jam per year for the national market and for export.
  • The volume of mango exports increased tenfold between 2004 and 2014.

To improve livelihoods and empower rural women, the government and UNDP supported the building of a fruit-processing plant to turn mangoes into jam.

Financed with funds from the Match Against Poverty, organized by UNDP every year, this initiative creates jobs and provides farmers the skills to better utilize their raw product.

“We have had training on the notion of quality and how to combine hygiene, good packaging and product presentation,” explains Fatoumata Camara, who is also a member of the Dijiguiya cooperative. “The current production unit is modern and all the work is done with the machines. We produce 10 times more now than before.”

The processing plant, which employs 15 permanent staff members, produces mango jam from the end of March until July, and papaya jam from November to December. The plant’s production capacity is approximately 150,000 pots of jam each year, destined both for local markets and for export.

The cooperative has obtained export certificates that guarantee international quality standards. However, challenges still remain. “The challenge now is to diversify the sales points for our products to ensure the longevity of our production,” explains Fatoumata.

This is where the efforts of the Integrated Trade Framework, initiated by UNDP and five other international institutions, helps to improve multilateral trade in least developed countries. Other projects include loans granted to mango exporters, the phytosanitary processing of 7,000 hectares of orchards a year, and the introduction of a quality management system among cooperatives. This helps farmers understand how the value chain works and has led to a tenfold increase in the volume of mango exports between 2004 and 2014.

Thanks to the ISO 22000 certification obtained recently, Mali hopes to export 300,000 pots of mango jam to Europe and the United States in 2016. Other sectors, such as gum arabic and shea products, are having the same success, supporting large communities in some of the most vulnerable provinces in Mali.

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