Women’s associations for generating additional income from wise use of natural resources.

July 31, 2017

Mali Placeholder

Women’s associations for generating additional income from wise use of natural resources.

About the Implementing organization

Name: The Mali Elephant Project

Country: Mali

Year of establishment: 2003

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization, Legally recognized non-profit status, Women’s association or organization, Indigenous group or organization


This solution supports women in the development of activities that generate revenue and encourage the sustainable management of natural resources. Women in selected communities are supported in deciding the activities they wish to pursue, creating associations to facilitate collective effort where necessary, and are then provided with training in book-keeping, project management, benefit sharing and any technical skills required for the community to manage the process itself. Initially, different options of revenue generation are discussed to ensure that the initiative is understood, enables an exchange of ideas and allows them to arrive at a consensus on their immediate priorities and how they can work together to improve their livelihoods through collective income generation. Local trainers promote the sustainable harvesting of NTFPs that include fruits and leaves of Acacia and other sources of livestock fodder such as hay harvested from pasture reserves; wild foods and medicinal plants; gum Arabic from Acacia seyal; and myrrh from Commiphora africana as a priority activity in order to increase the incentive to reduce the degradation of forests on which people rely. However, the communities ultimately decide on which initiatives they want to implement, and these vary depending on what their shared priorities are. This self-determination is essential to ensure rapid uptake, ownership of the initiative and ultimate success.

Nature Element

Forests / Wetlands / Grasslands / Drylands / Wildlife

Type of Action

Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Access and benefit sharing / Advocacy for land & water rights / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Peace and security

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

The women’s associations promote sustainable use of natural resources in preference to male-dominated activities such as environmentally destructive charcoal production which often benefit distant urban interests while causing severe degradation to local resources. The generation of additional revenue provides increased incentive to protect key resources shared by people and elephants (pasture, forests and water) and in the long-term will reduce forest degradation caused by abusive tree cutting for charcoal and firewood. The eco-guardians support this by monitoring sustainable use zones and planting seedlings to encourage forest regeneration. Pasture reserves protected by fire-breaks for hay harvest also reduce habitat degradation caused by wild fires. The field team is currently monitoring the level of tree cutting, forest regeneration and biodiversity (birds and insects) to measure the impact of the women’s association activities.

Sustainable Development Impacts

The women’s associations empower women to generate additional income for their communities and take the lead in promoting more sustainable use of natural resources, improving livelihoods and increasing food security and resilience to environmental change by diversifying income sources. >9,008 people live in communities that are influenced by the 12 income-generating activities. >957 people are direct beneficiaries (~78% women) with a further >337 indirect beneficiaries (please note: this is a conservative estimate as we are still analyzing the data for 4 of the 12 community associations). Training delivers new skills to participants: in 2016 >317 women attended >23 days of training/planning meetings. Example of potential income generation: the Kazey-Kazey cooperative has generated up to $24,000/year from sales of hay and other NTFPs harvested from their 282 km2 pasture reserve established in 2012.


This solution has been very popular across the elephant range and funds are currently being sought to facilitate the formation and training of additional women’s associations in key locations at greatest risk of conflict, insecurity and elephant poaching. Recent patterns have shown that as tangible benefits are demonstrated, neighbouring communities ask to participate or form their own associations, and in this way the solution is currently expanding.


The solution has proved to be very popular in the Gourma region where women have traditionally harvested NTFPs for personal use and local markets exist, and it is now hoped that the associations will be replicated across the elephant range and beyond. Similar initiatives are currently underway in Burkina Faso, and other Sahelian countries where suitable NTFPs occur and traditional practices exist.

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