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Mali Folk Centre

Photo credit: Mali-Folkecenter – A midwife outside a rural clinic lit by solar power in Boumou village, Sikasso

This innovative, challenging and exciting project will provide clean, green, carbon-free electricity to 100,000 people in some of Mali’s poorest and most isolated communities. An investment of £1.6 million will enable this 5-year programme to take place. The programme is a key part of Christian Aid’s climate change work, and represents a corporate priority for both Christian Aid and its West Africa programme.


Mali is a vast, landlocked republic in west Africa’s Sahel region, which is ravaged by the effects of climate change. Sixty-five per cent of the country is desert or semi-desert. The people are directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods – through herding, farming or fishing. Subsistence farmers grow cereals for food and often cotton as a cash crop. In rural areas, 80 per cent of energy needs are met by firewood and charcoal. People also use kerosene lamps, torches and rechargeable car batteries for light. Without sustainable energy solutions, the local population will be locked into a vicious cycle of poverty and increased environmental destruction.

The Project

The specific goal is to provide carbon-free electricity to 100,000 people in 65 villages in Sikasso and Koulikoro. The project will establish and maintain 50 jatropha plantations and 65 energy service centres: 15 powered by solar electricity and 50 fuelled with Jatropha oil.

Jatropha curcus is a drought-resistant plant that grows almost anywhere, needs little water and can withstand long periods of drought. Its seeds produce a nut that, when pressed, provides oil that is used as a green fuel, an organic fertiliser or may be converted into soap. The oil presses will be made locally, supporting local businesses and developing the market to stimulate the economy.

Set up jatropha plantations and energy service centres

A 20-hectare jatropha bush plantation will be established in each village to provide fuel for the 50 jatropha-fuelled energy service centres. Technicians will be trained to maintain all 65 energy service centres, which will reduce the workload of the communities – especially women – when milling cereals, groundnuts and shea nuts.

Management of the energy service centres

Project workers will help communities choose committee members to manage the energy service centres. Each committee will need a variety of people, to ensure they have the complete skill set required to manage the centre.

Committee members will be trained in technical skills equipment maintenance, bookkeeping and basic financial management. The main challenge is ensuring that in the long run, the centre’s financial management is sustainable.

Promotion of energy issues

A six-monthly newsletter will outline progress and community workshops will identify other sources of funding to take the project activities forward when the current funding comes to an end. This will reinforce communities’ capacity to negotiate and fundraise, and extend the project activities to other villages in their respective communes.

Key results

  • Electric-run pumps provide clean, safe drinking water from boreholes, reducing water-borne diseases
  • Lighting in schools enable more adults and children to attend school
  • Electric fridges in clinics allow for the storage of vital medicines
  • Lighting in rural clinics for emergency treatment and night-time births
  • Isolated communities are opened up to other parts of Mali.

Christian Aid, PO Box 100, London SE1 7RT