Savings club boosts women farmers access to climate-smart innovations in Mali

Accelerating the adoption of climate-smart technologies by overcoming financial barriers for smallholder farmers—especially women—is a priority for the AICCRA project. Thanks to the 'Savings for Change' program with AICCRA Mali, Syngenta Foundation and the Malian Association for Support and Advice to Community Initiatives (AMACIC), more than 30,000 women farmers in Mali are investing in climate-smart agriculture innovations which are boosting incomes by an average of USD618 per hectare.

Mali is a landlocked country in the Sahel region of Africa that is highly vulnerable to climate change. 

Declining crop productivity due to varying rainfall patterns, droughts and a shorter growing season are increasing food and nutrition insecurity, often exacerbating the conflicts that have plagued the country since 2012. 

Climate-smart agriculture technologies have the potential to increase farmers' resilience to climate change and are promoted by research and development organizations. 

However, the precarious financial conditions in the country and very limited investment capabilities of smallholder farmers are a major obstacle to the widespread adoption of innovations in climate-smart agriculture (CSA). 

Savings for Change is a community-based approach to organizing women farmers into groups for auto credit savings management. It builds on traditional rotating savings and credit clubs and introduces the concept of repaying loans with interest, steering groups towards income generation and growth. 

Through its initial stages, the program in collaboration with Syngenta Foundation and the Malian Association for Support and Advice to Community Initiatives (AMACIC) helped 35,000 women farmers in Mali get better access to the kind of finance that enables them to use and adopt CSA innovations. 

For example, the finance helped them diversify farms with more varieties of vegetables, drought-resistant seed varieties and supplementary irrigation. 

Women of the saving for change group in the Sikasso region 

Rokia Togola, a woman farmer from the Sikasso region of Mali, shared her personal experience with the Savings for Change mechanism. She stated that her income has increased, and now she can contribute to her children's school fees and healthcare. Her decision-making power on productive resources—such as the rental of agricultural land, the use of agricultural machinery and the payment of agricultural labor—has increased.

Rokia’s farm generated more income because she diversified her crops, using more drought-tolerant varieties, and used supplemental irrigation. All of this was made possible by loans she received from the Savings for Change mechanism. 

Women farmers now have access to finance without the procedural hassle of formal microfinance structures, thanks to Savings for Change. With these resources, women farmers now invest more in the adoption of climate-smart agricultural technologies, which improves their incomes, food security and decision-making power in households. 

Accelerating the adoption of climate-smart technologies by overcoming financial barriers for smallholder farmers—especially women—is a priority for AICCRA.

Vegetable farm established by Rokia after receiving a loan from the Savings for Change group 

Thanks to the loans obtained, women now have capital for the adoption of climate-smart technologies. On average, women who participated in the ‘Savings for Change’ club increased their investments in climate-smart agriculture technologies by USD 120 per hectare, which in turn increased their total incomes by USD 618/ha, and their net profits by USD 497/ha. 

The Savings for Change mechanism also increased the food consumption score by 12 points, a metric which tracks the frequency with which households consume different food groups in the seven days that precede a survey. Therefore, the women farmers involved in the Savings for Change mechanism are less likely to be chronically food insecure than women farmers not involved.      

Groups and weekly meetings offer opportunities for women farmers to share information about climate change. Women farmers are also trained in climate-smart practices such as crop diversification, growing drought-tolerant seed varieties, using improved agricultural machinery, site-specific fertilizer, and water management.

The Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project, funded by the World Bank, is supporting the rollout of a 'Savings for Change' program on a larger scale in Mali, through a partnership with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, and AMACIC. 

AMACIC trains women farmers in how to save regularly, borrow from their group's funds and repay loans with interest. 

Samuel Guindo (Agriservices Program Manager and AICCRA Project Focal Point at the Syngenta Foundation) and Ousmane Traoré (AMACIC Director) both confirmed that Savings for Change contribute significantly to the mobilization of financial resources and increase women's incomes through income-generating activities. 


Elliott Ronald Dossou-YovoAICCRA Mali Country Coordinator, Conceptualization, Methodology, Data curation, Software, Writing Original draft preparation

Samuel Guindo, Agri-business Program Leader at Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture,  Investigation, Reviewing and Editing

Haissa Toure, Communication Consultant AICCRA Mali, Reviewing and Editing