Wampiri is a small rural village in Mali, where the climate is too arid for agriculture most of the year. During the rainy season, the area floods and can only be reached by boat. These circumstances give rise to a “hunger gap” or “hungry season,” a period of four months when local food supply becomes scarce, driving up prices and increasing financial pressure on households in the village.
Malado Sabbabou Sow lives in this village, where her only income came from trading sweet potatoes and cassava. But because she was entirely dependent on the few products available from the village’s few farmers, she could only run her business for one month of the year. The remaining eleven months of the year, she had to ask her husband for spending money or borrow from neighbors.
Since receiving a seed capital grant and training from Trickle Up in January 2008, Malado has expanded her livelihood activities and can work all 12 months of the year. During one month she continues to trade sweet potatoes and cassava, and she now also trades fish for four months. For the remaining seven months, she sells peanuts and okra at the market in Mopti.
“Now I buy products at the market in Mopti and resell them in my village and at the market in Kakagna,” Malado said. “I didn’t engage in this trade before Trickle Up because I didn’t have enough money to diversify in this way.”
Diversification is an important strategy to help cope with vulnerability. With help from Trickle Up, Malado was able to expand her livelihood activities so that she wouldn’t have to be dependent on an unsteady income source. Selling fish is her most profitable livelihood activity, and during the four months that she sells fish, she is able to set aside more savings from her profits.
Malado is the vice president of her savings group, where she and other Trickle Up participants in Wampiri save regularly, particularly to prepare for the hungry season. She explained one of the strategies which members use to cope during those challenging months of the year: “Our strategy to face the hungry season is to take loans from the savings group. During this period we encourage members to take loans at small interest rates of only 2%, for getting through the hungry season as well as for other needs.”
The changes in Malado’s quality of life and outlook show clear signs of success. Aside from contributing to her savings group, Malado spends her earnings to cover her household’s needs—food for her three children, health care, clothing, and other household items. For many Trickle Up participants like Malado, an increase in independent income gives women more decision-making power within their households. Explaining that relying on her husband for money had previously caused tension, Malado said, “Having more income has brought peace in the family.”