Over the past four years, the Mali: Healthy Communities project, in partnership with the One Drop Foundation, improved WASH infrastructure, promoted hygiene behavior change and supported WASH-related businesses in nine rural communities in the districts of Kati and Bla, Mali. As a result, thousands of lives have been transformed through improved living conditions and at the projects end, we had directly reached 82,074 people, while indirectly impacting the lives of 198,769 people. These results greatly exceed the initial targets of the project.
Over the course of the project, we were resolutely focused on three main components:
-Helping communities access clean water, decent toilets and improved hygiene;
-Encouraging good hygiene behavior change using social arts;
-Supporting economic activities related to water, sanitation and hygiene, such as making soap and building latrines
In 2020, the fourth and final year of the Mali: Healthy Communities project, we worked to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project. We worked with our partners to develop local capacity and to build a foundation for sustainable change. We strengthened the capacity of previously established management committees that were set up to improve project governance, accountability and sustainability of water infrastructure. Each committee did a self-diagnosis to identify gaps and looked to areas where we could help strengthen and support each committee’s specific needs. We continued to build relationships with communities which were certified as Open Defecation Free (ODF) through home visits, and by promoting and supporting community monitoring and self-assessments.
We promoted hygiene behavior change by sharing critical information through radio broadcasts, and built awareness and advocacy of Global Handwashing Day and World Toilet Day. We established two new women’s cooperatives and trained local water management committees, hygiene clubs, teachers, artists and local officials on WASH promotion.
Through the Mali: Healthy Communities project we:
-Reached 27,673 community members out of a targeted 28,541 with access to clean water;
-Reached 52,907 community members with improved sanitation, exceeding our initial target of 24,360;
-Reached 199,109 community members with hygiene behavior education, exceeding our initial target of 117,746;
-Constructed or rehabilitated 44 community water stations serving 27,637 people;
-Constructed 29 gender-sensitive and inclusive toilet facilities in 22 schools, serving 6,583 students;
-Installed 20 new latrines, separated for male, female and staff in 4 healthcare facilities, reaching 1,360 direct beneficiaries; and,
-Added incinerators in 4 healthcare facilities, supporting the safe dispose of medical waste and lessening the risk and burden to healthcare workers.
One of the most exciting successes of Mali: Healthy Communities centers on women’s empowerment through access to micro-credit. Thirteen cooperatives have been created, focused on developing products like soap, composting and farming. Once the cooperatives had been identified, training was given with a focus on providing governance, financial management and technical skills to the members.
The women’s association Benkadi in the rural municipality of Samabogo was identified in 2016 by WaterAid and its local partners. The cooperative, currently 45 members, decided to provide services in the agricultural fields in order to generate income and care for their personal needs. Before the project intervention, the women in Samabogo helped their husbands in agriculture during the rainy season and were heavily dependent on their husbands to meet even their basic needs. Most women would stay home doing housework while waiting for the next rainy season to start again and begin field cultivation. Setou Diallo, a member and the secretary of the Benkadi cooperative, says:
“Before I started working with the group of women in the market garden, there weren’t many activities for us to do in the dry season. I mainly cooked and looked for firewood in the bush. Here in the garden we can work during the rainy season as well as the dry season. Today, the market garden is very important to us. As a woman I couldn’t buy anything before without asking my husband to give me money, but now, with the money I earn from the sales of the gardening products, I am able to buy many things without going through my husband. This is a form of independence that is really comforting.”
The benefits of the cooperative have had a community-wide ripple effect. With the money they earn, members are able to gain independence and autonomy. They are able to help ensure their children’s school fees are paid for and buy goods and clothes from local shops.
“I am quite satisfied with what we do here, the last production campaign allowed me to buy soap and clothes. It also allowed me to buy school supplies for my two daughters who are still going to school. Working in a group is really motivating. We learn from each other and we improve. This group spirit is a strength, and it allows us to continue. And what motivates us also is the fact that what we grow in our market garden here is for our own profit as women and for our children.“