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Agile International Empowers Women Farmers, Launches Sustainable Development Operations in Africa
Every day should be International Women’s Day. Agile International announces the launch of a new organization that is making a giant leap in improving the balance of power—and the economic self-sufficiency—for women in Mali.
Agile (Action to Generate and Integrate the Local Economy) International, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Boulder, CO, has a vision to create positive developments in nations that have been negatively affected by structural, international, and climatic forces. Its purpose is to return Western Africa to food abundance by empowering local women farmers and restoring the cultural wisdom that underlies traditional sustainable culture. Agile International (AI) has partnered with Dr. Kraig Peel, a professor from the Department of Agricultural Science at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Colorado. AI is a member of Colorado Coalition for Africa Empowerment (CCAE) and is a partner with the Department of Agricultural Science and the Advanced and Sustainable Enterprise (CASE) division of Colorado State University.
AI has partnered with Wings For Farmers (W4F), a brand new company looking to be launched in Mali later this year. They will hire local engineers to assemble wind powered aircraft called Levopters. Their mission is to provide affordable air transportation for subsistence farmers in Mali. Farmers will be given the opportunity to transport crops to distant markets where they will earn more money
Agile International’s new model allows women to have control of plots of land purchased by Agile for women farmers – the direct beneficiaries of the food they grow and harvest. “The right to own land for women in these countries means changes that can be lasting and lead to permanent solutions to basic social problems in the region,” states Agile International president and founder, Fatou Doumbia. “The profits of their surplus women earn from their harvests can be used to send their daughters to school, opening up the options available to them in the future and reducing the pregnancy rates among young girls who lack other choices in their lives.” This is a model Agile will replicate throughout West Africa.
When the changes promoted by Agile occur, the results can be amazing. In Fatou Doumia’s home country of Mali, a woman by the name of Maimouna Coulibaly turned nearly 20 years of work in the seed sector into a seed company called Faso Kaba Seed Company. This seed company now produces and sells enough seed to feed approximately half a million Malians each year – a country where one out of five households faces some level of food insecurity and 10 percent are severely food insecure. In 2012, Faso Kaba produced and sold ten times more than the company sold when it first started in 2007. Today, Faso Kaba is part of a network of 20 Malian seed companies working together to ensure that affordable, quality seed is available to help feed Malian families. These network linkages are key to the overall success of the seed value chain.
By purchasing land to place women in charge of their destinies, providing instruction on sustainable farming practices, and increasing the food supply to provide more income and a return to bounteous meals in countries with shared cultural traditions, women can have the future that they wish to have in West Africa.
The challenge is great. Experts report that women in Africa contribute 70 percent of food production. They also account for nearly half of all farm labor and 80 to 90 percent of food processing, storage and transport, as well as hoeing and weeding.
“Women will experience increased autonomy and greater control of their lives,” says Doumbia. “It’s a step toward equality for women and a further evolution of women’s rights in Africa.”