“Thanks to this help, I did not need to take out a loan this year”
As part of the BMZ-KfW-funded social protection project, UNICEF is supporting the Malian Government in its response to the most vulnerable households affected by the consequences of COVID-19.
Lists of names scroll across Mélanie Dicko's screen. With a single click, the account manager at Orange Mobile Mali sends 45,000 CFA francs (around 79$) on the SIM cards distributed to the 7563 women members of the “Epargne pour le changement” (EPC) groups. "We have the list of beneficiaries on the screen, and when the green arrow appears, it means that they have been notified by SMS them that the money is available in their Orange Money account," she explains in her office in Bamako.
More than 240 kilometres away, in the village of Massala, Aoua* is one of the 25 most vulnerable women in the village who benefited from this first money transfer in June 2021. The project, funded by BMZ-KfW, supports the government's response to poor and vulnerable households whose needs have been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I bought groundnut seeds, pesticides and, above all, a day of ploughing with a plough.”
"Thanks to this money I bought groundnut seeds, pesticides and, above all, I was able to pay for a day's ploughing with a plough," Aoua explains proudly in front of her field. "It's a good project because this year I was able to avoid taking a loan to grow my crops and it's the first time I've received such help," says the widow and mother of three, who doesn't know her exact age. "I am about 70 years old," she says, the corner of her eyes wrinkled by the years and her big smile.
Aoua is the president of the “Epargne pour le changement” group called "Benkadi" ("good understanding" in Bambara) in Massala, a village in south Mali. A total of 310 savings groups for change, representing more than 5,180 women, have already received a first transfer to meet their immediate needs before a second transfer in October 2021. The cash transfers for these women are coupled with complementary services. These include awareness-raising sessions on nutrition, breastfeeding, vaccination, schooling, training on financial inclusion (basic accounting, management of dematerialised accounts, etc.) and the setting up of income-generating activities for the long term.
"The day these women received the money transfer, I didn't have enough money with me, so I had to ask some of them to go all the way to Kolondieba to get it," recalls Lassina Mariko, the only Orange Money distributor in Massala. "I will be more prepared in the future and when the second payment arrives, I will be ready. Thanks to this operation I also earn money, so I hope that the number of beneficiaries will increase," he concludes, his account book in hand.
In Massala, the women, aged between 20 and 84 years, are willing to share of the use they made of the 45,000 CFA: "I bought bean seeds as it is the season to plant, the rest will be used for my household needs" explains Kadiatou*, one of the project beneficiaries. "I have withdrawn all the money but I prefer to keep it with me and spend it little by little," adds Bineta* before adding: "For the moment I have only bought a chicken to sell.” “I bought a goat for breeding," says Mariam, before her neighbour on the right adds proudly :"I bought two goats!”
“I hope that the number of beneficiaries will increase.”
In total, thanks to this partnership between Orange Money and the national social safety net programme "Jigisemejiri", UNICEF will make cash transfers to more than 40,063 households, including 7,563 women from “Epargne pour le changement” group in the regions of Koulikoro, Sikasso, Ségou and Bamako's commune 3.
"With the next transfer, the group would like to buy a katakatani**," explains Aoua as president of the group. "If we all contribute, it will be possible and it will benefit to us all by allowing us to transport our goods more easily” she concludes with enthusiasm.
*Names have been changed for protection reasons.
** A katakatani is a three-wheeler engine used to transport goods.