Overall in my travels to the southern regions of Mali and the time I spend in rural communities, its rare that I see women driving motorcycles (the main form of transport for the majority of Malians). By in large female moto drivers are very common in Bamako and in cities across Mali. However, as you get more rural into communities that are kilometers off a paved road and down the dusty trails we call “routes,” – it is rare to see a woman in charge of her moto.
This week I had the privilege of visiting one of our newest zones and a village called Banzana. It’s the first year that myAgro has worked here and people are incredibly motivated to work with us. This is always encouraging to listen to how much farmers are benefitting from the work that myAgro does and about how their work with us is letting them achieve their personal goals.
In Banzana, I met the leader of an incredible group of women. This leader had encouraged 39 women to enroll with myAgro and was instrumental in helping 27 women finish paying for their agricultural package (of seeds, fertilizer, and training). What’s more is that these women wanted to work together to labour and plant their fields by hand. This is back breaking work. In general a woman will register for 1/8th of hectare to provide for their families and have some personal income. That means that these women wanted to plant +3 hectares using only a daba (the traditional planting tool) and their own strength. The agent had to convince these women to divide and conquer the work in the interest of time and effort.
When I was talking to these women – they told me what they were saving for. Many wanted a big moto (like a Yamaha motorcycle) and some others wanted the cheaper and smaller Jakarta moto. I was thrilled to hear that they wanted more freedom of movement and that they were taking steps to achieve that goal. I was excited to encourage them but secretly skeptical that they would achieve that goal – motos are so expensive and the economic independence of women is pretty low here.
I was more hopeful though as I left and there was a beautiful woman dressed in blues and greens who passed us on the road as I was leaving – driving a big moto on her way to market day a few villages over. Progress is happening here in Mali and it is heartwarming to see people reaping the benefits.