Economic Development Projects
To address the longstanding economic hardships in Mali, the Alliance’s economic development initiatives began in 1995 when small individual loans were offered to villagers in the town of Ouelessebougou. After the Alliance had provided these loans for several years, (aiding tailors, veterinarians, restaurateurs, etc.) the Alliance determined there was a greater need in the more rural village communities. In 2004, the Alliance re-structured its loan program and began offering revolving loans to village committees in larger amounts—allowing for an increased profit margin.
Village Loans for Self-Reliance
The Alliance has set up a revolving loan fund through a local credit union in Ouelessebougou, which allows villages to have access to capital in order to help them start and maintain business ventures. 15 villages have participated in the Alliance’s economic development loan program since 1995. In order to be approved for a loan through the Alliance, a village must form an Economic Development Committee and attend regular business trainings. Once a loan is approved, the committee is charged with the responsibility of overseeing small business loans for individuals in their villages who have submitted formal business plans and have been approved by the committee. Economic Development Committees work to ensure that loans are paid back in full and on time. 91% of all Alliance loans since 1995 have been repaid or are current!
Most adults in Ouelessebougou are not literate and have little training or experience in business development, but they have farming and craft skills to start a business to improve life for their families and villages. In order to receive a business loan from the Alliance, Village Economic Development Committees must participate in an annual business training to ensure that their businesses will be successful and that their loans will be paid in full and on time. Participants learn how to write a business plan, how to manage their business loan, and how to train individual loan recipients in their villages on loan repayment and business strategy. In addition to this annual training, the Alliance’s Economic Development Coordinator also meets with committee members frequently to support them in their business efforts.
Shea Butter Training
Shea nuts grow in abundance in Mali, and women in the Ouelessebougou region work hard to transform the oil from these nuts into profitable Shea butter. This butter can be sold on the international market to be used in cosmetics and lotions, but only if it is high quality. For this, they need special training and the right tools – two things that most people in the Ouelessebougou region cannot afford.
With the help of Shea butter experts from Bamako, the Alliance provides an in-depth Shea butter training for 30 women at the Alliance compound in Ouelessebougou each year. This group of women has formed an association in an effort to improve their butter-making process and to learn how to package, transport, and sell their product in the international market. The women’s association plans to expand its efforts to include hundreds of women from the surrounding villages and make a name for themselves at the market.
Watch our Economic Development Video