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Mali & Burkina Faso

A Mali savings group meeting. Trickle Up supports these women in having more opportunities and better prospects as they take their first steps out of extreme poverty.


Following the coup d’état in Mali and civil war in March 22, 2012, Trickle Up remains committed to continuing our work in West Africa. The political crisis in Mali exacerbated poverty in a region already struggling with chronic poverty and the rising threat of severe food shortages. UN and other relief officials that these pressures have prompted more than 300,000 Malians to leave their homes, about half to neighboring countries and half to other parts of Mali.

As a result of the civil war that has effectively divided Mali in half, with the northern half now off-limits to Trickle Up for security reasons. We hope to be able to resume our work there and will do what we can to support our partners and participants in the interim. We will continue our work with partners and participants in the southern half of Mali and in Burkina Faso. USAID, which has been a major supporter of our work in Mali, has temporarily suspended funding and we hope that it resumes soon.

Trickle Up has served more than 20,000 participants and more than 700 savings and solidarity groups in the region in the past five years.


Mali and Burkina Faso are two of the poorest countries in West Africa and the world. 10% of the population in these countries suffers from malnutrition, approximately one in three children are underweight, and life expectancy is only about 50 years.

Agriculture is the primary economic activity for 80-90% of the labor force in each country, but a semi-arid climate and the lack of irrigation infrastructure constrain productivity. A lack of employment options in the off-season (up to six months of the year when people cannot work the fields), and high food prices also contribute to the ongoing cycle of poverty. In recent years, erratic rainfall patterns have threatened the livelihoods of millions and worsened food shortages in the region. With limited access to financial resources, advanced technology, or vibrant markets that would extend economic opportunity to the poorest households, families are locked in subsistence-level activitieswith each day a struggle for survival.

In the communities where Trickle Up works, close to 80% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Although these communities face significant obstacles to moving out of poverty, Trickle Up has established a successful track record of raising income levels and improving quality of life for the poorest of the poor.


Diando Koulibaly with her fresh catch of the day. Trickle Up’s West Africa field office is based in Sévaré, Mali. Our local team works closely with a network of partner agencies implementing our programs in Mali and Burkina Faso. These partners are locally-based non-governmental organizations with expert knowledge of community dynamics, market contexts, and the regulatory environment. They undergo a rigorous training process and receive regular support from our regional field office staff, which prepares them to implement Trickle Up’s program and bolsters their capacity to support and increase microenterprise development in a region presently underserved.

  • Microenterprise training: The training provided to all Trickle Up participants covers several important aspects of launching and managing a new enterprise, such as conducting a market survey, handling competition, and calculating expenses, sales, and profit. In Mali and Burkina Faso, the majority of our program participants use their Trickle Up seed capital grant to launch small trade or retail activities. Trainings incorporate strategies for teaching individuals with little or no literacy or numeracy skills, typically a large number of our participants.
  • Seed capital disbursement: Trickle Up field and partner staff disburse the first installment of the Spark Grant, 80% of the total grant sum, following delivery of business training to participants. Staff disburse the remaining 20% about three months later, allowing participants to re-inject working capital into their livelihood activity, typically expanding or diversifying it. Trickle Up’s practice of providing seed capital grants, rather than microloans, is one of the distinguishing features of our program. Risk-free seed capital enables participants to direct income from their new microenterprises towards essential household needs, savings, and business investments, helping them reach a level of financial stability at which they might productively be able to access and use a loan.
  • Savings group formation: In West Africa, Trickle Up has developed an extensive savings model in which savings groups, called Business Development Savings Funds, serve a variety of essential functions. Membership in a savings group allows program participants to save weekly, as well as access loans repayable at interest rates set by the group (usually between 0 and 10%). Members also receive training in financial management skills related to savings, managing loans, and making investments. Importantly, groups build a community of peers that provide support and share best practices related to business development and other challenges participants are facing in their lives.

Since 2004, Trickle Up has reached 23,712 participants in Mali and Burkina Faso, impacting the lives of 118,560 people (for an average of 5 people benefiting from each Trickle Up participant).


  • 65% of participants report taking out loans to invest in productive activities versus 25% at the start of the program.
  • 100% of participants reported that they take part in economic activities, up from 53%.
  • A reduction of 1.6 months of the annual lean season experienced by households, and a doubling of household spending on non-staple foods, from an average of $0.25 to $0.47 per day.
  • 68% increase in participants engaged in trading (from 49% to 82%) and a two-fold increase in engagement in manufacturing, from 10 to 30%.
  • 93% of participants in India and Mali report that their lives have improved over the past year.

To learn more about Trickle Up's impact, click here.

The Trickle Up Mali program is made possible in part by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
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