Niakate Goundo Kamissoko is an amazing woman from Mali who has dedicated her life to ensure women have access to land. This has protected their households and families from hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Her story is evidence that women are real agents of change working to address the problems they and their communities face. This is her story.
My name is Niakate Goundo Kamissoko, the President of the National Federation of Rural Women of Mali. I am also the President of the Regional Union of Agricultural Cooperatives Kayes, an elected member of the Permanent Assembly of Chambers of Agriculture of Mali, President of the Commission of Rural Development of Economic Social and Cultural Council of Mali – which includes 800 rural women, Second Vice-President of the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations of Mali, Member of the National Coordination of Users of Natural Resources in the Niger Basin in Mali, and member of the ONE Campaign Advocacy Group for Sustainable Development.
Most importantly, I am a farmer and my farm produces banana, potato, okra, and onions. Myself and many other women like me contribute to Mali’s food security.
My agricultural journey began working in the fields in 1985. I was paid 11 000 FCFA ($20) per month. I worked my way up advocating for women’s rights in agriculture as a means of livehood. Having lived for many years in France, my husband returned to settle back in his home town of Kayes in Mali working and investing in agriculture. We then formed an association called Tounkatè danbédon to encourage others to come back to Mali and invest in agriculture.
These efforts paid off and we got attention from international partners such as the Food and Aid Organisation’s project funded by Belgium, which gave women 4.5 hectares of land to conduct their agricultural activities.
This project was our first big break and has greatly contributed to strengthening the technical capacity of women in the fields including cloth dyeing, soap making and farming techniques.
The project also touched on the issue of pregnancy and assistance during delivery, which was also a critical issue for the women. They have conducted training for midwives to save thousands of lives in their communities. Through this project, I was trained and certified as a trainer.
Through the years, I grew as a leader of rural women and have organized information and awareness campaigns on issues related to women in agriculture and their livelihoods. We have conducted advocacy campaigns towards technical and financial partners, local authorities, and traditional leaders pushing for women’s access to land, agricultural financing, and capacity building. It is from these advocacy efforts that we have improved the lives of women in agriculture in our community through increased access to agricultural equipment, funding, and agricultural inputs that increased their productivity.
However, they are still too many Malian women producing below potential as they lack access to essential agricultural assets and services. Women are employees throughout the agricultural value chain but still struggle to improve their living conditions, their families and communities. I continue to fight the sexist nature of poverty and hope that in the end women are treated with dignity and respect as active citizens in the development of the Malian society.
I believe women should be supported because they are at the forefront of any development process. In Mali, women currently do not have an allocation in the agriculture budget nor do they have access to land. The fight for women to have these rights is a long battle that continues everyday. I am glad that ONE and several other organisations are joining us to fight to achieve this.
Are you playing your part in being an agent of change on issues that affect your community? Join a movement of people who like Niakate are passionate about effecting positive change and ending poverty in whatever form it exists. Join ONE today.