The story of Mrs. Diallo and the World Bank began back in 2008 when she received a CFAF 2.5 million grant (out of a total project cost of CFAF 5 million) to improve the infrastructure of her mango conditioning company. With the support of the World Bank-financed Mali Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project (PCDA), she was then able to acquire two new high capacity mango processors that would help her grow her business.
“A lot has changed for me since the days when we had the Attesta dryers,” reflects Diallo. “We were producing 20 kilos of dried mangoes per day with the old equipment. Today, we are producing around 1.5 to 2 tons a day. Our production capacity has more than tripled! Not only have we improved the quality of the final product but we have also reduced losses in raw materials.”
The PCDA provides support to farmers and private entrepreneurs to increase and diversify their household incomes and economic opportunities. It supports the development of a vibrant and diversified commercial agriculture as a means to move away from subsistence agriculture, often synonymous with poverty for a majority of rural households.
By facilitating private sector development, scaled up investments, and access to funding and commercial infrastructure, the project is building capacity on several levels of the agricultural value chain. It is also working actively to connect farmers to markets for the commercialization of their products by establishing partnerships with regional and international entities, which is essential to their future success.
Once only sold in domestic markets, dried mangoes from Enterprise Diallo are now available in European supermarkets. “Our products are up to international standards, and in collaboration with our South African partner, we are now able to reach international markets. This has been a real game changer,” says Diallo.
Entreprise Diallo currently employs 25 people, out of which 20 are women. Through the support of the project, Mrs. Diallo was able to leverage additional financing from other donors (European Union, Swiss Cooperation), and in collaboration with the Regional Assembly, she is now building a new modern and higher capacity plant with improved infrastructure a few miles away in Sikasso. “I was dreaming about a bigger and improved space for a long time,” she said. “My dream has finally become a reality and I am so proud of what we’ve achieved given our humble beginnings in the tiny backyard of my house.”
The new building is expected to be operational in the course of 2016. The company will increase the number of permanent and seasonal workers and give priority to unemployed youth.
For this dynamic entrepreneur, transformation, in all is meanings, is paramount. African Governments, with the help of donors, should put more emphasis on local transformation and encourage farmers by providing them incentives such as subsidies. With increased capacity, farmers will be able to employ more people and by doing so they are not only helping thousands of families but also contributing to the economic growth of their communities.
Thousands of farmers are receiving support under PCDA for mango and coconut transformation and 80% of these beneficiaries are women. In addition to transformation, the project is also assisting farmers in increasing their productivity through improved irrigation systems, capacity building, and technical support.
Alassane Kone is a mango producer in Sikasso. In 2010, he was granted CFAF 10 million from the PCDA project and invested it in a modern irrigation system for his five hectare farm.
“It used to take me one week to water the whole farm. I was fetching water about two kilometers from the farm on the back of my donkey,” explains Kone pointing at the donkey resting under a tree. “Now with the improved irrigation system, it takes me only four hours. Our productivity doubled from 100 plants per hectare to 200 plants per hectare.”
Kone has literally outgrown traditional farming to become a commercial producer with approximately 1, 054 mango trees. Thanks to his new irrigation system, he no longer relies on the rainy season to water the orchard. “This is a big relief and one of the best investments I have ever made,” claims Kone as he proudly shows me the new system. “I have water all year round and I don’t have to overwork my poor donkey,” he added in a laugh.
Mangoes from Kone’s orchard and many others in the region are processed at the newly built Mango and Potato Conditioning Plant of Sikasso. Built and equipped with project funds in June 2014, the plant has a processing capacity of 66 tons (three containers) of first grade mangoes per day. From the plant, the production is exported to neighboring countries in North Africa and Europe.
As of June 2015, when the project closed, more than 16,000 direct beneficiaries in the regions of Mopti, Segou, Sikasso, Koulikoro and the District of Bamako had felt the positive impact of the PCDA.
When asked about what comes next, and the risks of losing the project’s gains, Regional Project Coordinator Mamadou Camara responded assertively saying, “state-owned agencies have been trained to take over the supervision of project activities. We have teamed up with specialized agencies to provide capacity building and training to farmers. I foresee no barriers to sustaining the good work that we have begun.”