Social Safety Nets in Mali: Protecting the Poorest and Building Resilience

August 3, 2015

World Bank / Sarah Farhat

  • Representatives of government services, donors, and international organizations convened at a workshop on social protection organized by the World Bank in Mali.
  • Facing instability and food insecurity, large swaths of the Malian population are vulnerable and struggle to make ends meet.
  • Since 2013, the World Bank has been supporting an Emergency Safety Nets project, which has provided targeted cash transfers to 62,000 households.

BAMAKO, August 3, 2015—Are social safety nets effective? This was the topic debated at a two-day workshop organized by the World Bank in Bamako on June 22 and 23. Attended by representatives of government services and humanitarian and Malian development organizations, these workshops provided an opportunity to review the various approaches and strategies used in the implementation of safety net programs in the country.

Faced with the crises in the Sahel region—natural disasters, political and economic uncertainty, and food insecurity—the Malian people, especially the poor, are vulnerable. In many Malian villages, each day is a struggle for survival. 

" I was so relieved the day I received money from the project because I was very indebted. The money allowed me to pay all my debts "

Togorotien Sacko

Beneficiary of the Emergency Safety Nets project (Jigiséméjiri)

“We eat what we can find, and we live day to day. Despite all my efforts, it’s not always enough,” says Sira Coulibaly. Ms. Coulibaly lives in the village of Koulouniko, making her living by selling firewood. Her daily earnings determine whether she eats or not.

In order to alleviate this acute poverty and food insecurity, the World Bank and the Malian Government have set up a $70 million Emergency Safety Nets project. Better known as Jigiséméjiri in Mali, meaning “tree of hope” in the Bambara language, this project distributes targeted cash transfers to 62,000 households in 106 communes suffering from food insecurity. “Jigiséméjiri is laying the foundations for a national social protection system in Mali,” explains Mahmoud Sako, project coordinator.

Beneficiaries are witnessing the project’s positive impact and the need for a permanent system to protect households living in poverty is becoming increasingly apparent.

“I was so relieved the day I received money from the project because I was very indebted. The money allowed me to pay all my debts,” explains Togorotien Sacko, who also lives in the village of Koulouniko, in the southern part of the country. “Our children’s work doesn’t bring in enough money to cover the family’s expenses. Times are hard,” she adds.

Ms. Coulibaly bought grain for her family. “I received 30,000 CFA francs from the project, and it really helped to lighten my financial burden.”

The main topics discussed at the workshop included institutional anchorage of safety nets, social registries, targeting vulnerable populations, payment methods, and accompanying measures seeking to improve the human capital of children.

According to views exchanged during the workshops, a national safety net system would be greatly enhanced by specific humanitarian assistance efforts, thereby emphasizing the need to build bridges between emergency responses and longer-term development, while taking into account constraints such as access, distances, and settlements.

In the case of an economic shock or natural disaster, the system could ideally be rolled out at a larger scale to offer rapid assistance to vulnerable households, fostering close coordination among government services, donors, nongovernmental organizations and international organizations. The interventions would in turn go beyond cash transfers to include the development of human capital, nutrition, and household resilience.

Workshop participants felt it was also important to take action to improve nutrition through the distribution of locally produced food supplements composed of enriched flour. These distributions would target the most vulnerable members of Malian households, notably young children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women.

As for the building of household resilience, participants stressed the importance of holding specific workshops to raise awareness about savings, income-generating activities, microfinance institutions, and labor-intensive jobs.