Adult learning and education improves living conditions for farmers and herders in Mali

In a central Malian village, the members of a REFLECT circle have not only learned to read, write and do arithmetic, but have worked to keep their community together. In response to the increasing loss of agricultural land and the resulting tensions between the villagers, the circle decided to build a stone wall.

A central Malian village has been suffering from severe deforestation for many years. This leads to soil erosionanddesertification in the fields with serious consequences for the inhabitants’ agricultural and livestock practices: the areas that can be used for agriculture are getting smaller. In combination with population growth, this leads to tensions and conflicts over the use of the land, which has a negative impact on the social cohesion of the villagers.

REFLECT – Improving living conditions and strengthening social ties

One small glimmer of hope is the village’s REFLECT circle. The learning group was initiated in 2020 by the Malian NGO EVEIL, a partner organisation of DVV International. The 25 female members of the circle meet several times a week with a qualified local trainer to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. They then use these skills to independently analyse and solve everyday challenges faced by their community.

In response to the increasing loss of agricultural land, the learners of the REFLECT circle have decided to take up the issue. In doing so, they want to contribute to conflict resolution and strengthen social bonds within their communities. They dedicated several REFLECT sessions to this issue, discussing the causes and consequences of the problem as well as different approaches to solving it.

After the exchange in the REFLECT circle, the members approached the village and municipal authorities with their findings. They suggested building a stone wall to stabilise the soil and encourage rainwater harvesting to help the water infiltration. This would give the community access to more usable land. The authorities responded positively to this proposal and agreed to support the implementation with their expertise, materials and a fund.

A stone chain to improve the agricultural usability of devastated land

The whole village participated in the construction of the stone chain who recognised the added value of the stone construction for the development of the village. This cooperation is a novelty in the region. The villagers built a linear structure of stones around the devastated land. This structure slows down water runoff, distributes water better over the land and reduces soil erosion. This catchment area maintains and improves the fertility of nutrient-poor soils. Shortly after construction, the community was able to observe the growth of grasses and trees, which could be used as animal feed, among other things. The construction of the stone chain gives the farmers hope that they will be able to reclaim as much land as they had lost.

The commitment of the REFLECT circle and the mobilisation of the whole community shows how effective adult education can be in addressing social challenges. The involvement of the whole community was necessary for the successful implementation of the scheme. The development of new agricultural land has reduced the potential for conflict within the community and strengthened the internal stability of the community.

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