Women sitting on the floor
@arche noVa

Mali: More perspectives at the gates of the Sahara


one-time    regular
The vast north of Mali, with an area twice the size of Germany, is one of the forgotten crisis regions of the world. Difficult to access, neglected by the central government and marked by armed conflicts, the region offers people difficult living conditions. Added to this are the enormous heat and drought on the southern edge of the Sahara. In view of the multitude of challenges, arche noVa is pursuing a wide-ranging project approach in the north-east of the country, in the Gao region. In rural communities and schools, the expansion of wells and toilets is laying the foundation for an improvement in living conditions. In addition, income-generating measures are being implemented in agriculture and vocational training.
Simple World Map - Author: Al MacDonald Editor: Fritz Lekschas License: CC BY-SA 3.0 ID: ISO 3166-1 or "_[a-zA-Z]" if an ISO code is not available

For centuries, the north-east of Mali has been known for its cultural wealth and at the same time is one of the poorest regions of this already economically weak country. The recent crisis of 2012 has not yet been overcome. Although armed groups have been displaced from the larger towns, not all the hotbeds of conflict have been extinguished for a long time. The persistently difficult security situation makes important reconstruction work a challenge. arche noVa is one of the few international aid organisations active on the ground and has been working closely since 2013 with local organisations that assess the situation on the ground precisely and know people's aid needs. Among the most pressing problems in the project area are the lack of water and the lack of opportunities for young people on the labour market. Our project enables the construction of wells and sanitary facilities, supports school communities and vocational training.

Water is the basis

Between the Sahara desert and the fertile Niger Valley, the Gao Sahel region has a climate with long dry seasons and short rainy seasons, which have become increasingly irregular and unpredictable. The precipitation is hardly enough for the cultivation of the fields.Among the most pressing problems in the project area are the low resilience to food and nutrition insecurity, and the insufficient access to safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.

The Niger is the largest watercourse in Mali and also feeds the most wells in the project region. Increasingly long periods of drought caused by climate change make domestic water supplies scarce and precarious. Families living far away from the river have to travel long distances to fetch water. Water drawn directly from natural water sources is rarely treated before consumption. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) of the United Nations reports that 38 percent of the population in the Gao region have no access to safe drinking water.

arche noVa has been active in the field of water, sanitation and hygiene in northern Mali since 2013. The current project is taking place in 21 villages. One of the priorities is water supply, adequate access to hygienic toilets in schools where. Ten new wells are under construction and five existing wells are being rehabilitated. arche noVa also builds modern communal wells with solar pumping for the population of three villages suffering particularly from water shortages. Each of these wells has two water troughs for animals. To the most vulnerable populations living along natural watercourses and directly sourcing domestic drinking water from these watercourses, chlorination tablets will be distributed for the treatment of drinking water at household levels.

More health and hygiene

Safe water supply forms the basis for everything, but wells alone are not sufficient for a comprehensive improvement of living conditions. The way out of poverty, malnutrition and frequent illnesses is only possible with the construction of sanitary facilities and better hygiene practices. arche noVa actively promotes the construction and maintenance of toilets, particularly to protect water resources and the environment from pollution, particularly open defecation. Moreover, it is a question of personal hygiene and dignity not to have to carry out one's emergency work outdoors. Especially girls who have reached menstrual age benefit when there are toilets at their schools. By building sanitary facilities, arche noVa supports young women on their way to education and career prospects. A totol of eight new latrine blocks will be built and eight old ones will be repaired.

26 School Management Committees will be trained and supervised in hygiene and maintenance of the installations. The schools will be equipped with WaSH kits (detergents, small equipment, etc.) and teaching materials. At the end of our project, all school communities (students and their teachers) will have knowledge about access to and use of water and sanitation facilities as well as the use of bleach for chlorinating drinking water. Hygiene clubs are created and supported. They are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the facilities in cooperation with the Committees. They are provided with appropriate tools, equipment and assistance.

Opening up perspectives

In the Gao region and throughout the Sahel, droughts and scarce agricultural production are the causes of poverty, malnutrition and emigration. To tackle this situation, we support farmers, fischers and ranchers. Many of them have been driven into debt or forced to sell their animals in recent years. Others fled to neighbouring regions and the young people looking for work go to large cities or abroad.
arche noVa supports people in opening up new perspectives. This also applies to those returning. In the project villages more is to be harvested, the cattle herds are to grow, women will have more income and the fishery to bring more yield. This is why there are training courses on crop cultivation and conservation methods, horticulture, agroforestry, veterinary medicine (in particular vaccinations), fishing law and modern methods of fisching, fish farming and financial management. The participants also receive the necessary equipment, such as seeds or tools. The objective is to ensure that as many participants as possible lay the foundations for their own productive and commercial activities and stabilize their livelihood. The linchpin is formed by 21 new savings credit cooperatives and the close support of the people in the training courses.

arche noVa Country Director Dagmar Thießen (Mali)

"Women in Mali are traditionally severely disadvantaged in terms of access to land, credit and seeds. As a result, they are particularly hard hit by poverty. At the same time, they often have to provide for the whole family. Our project is particularly aimed at women and girls. The girls should be able to finish school and earn money themselves".

arche noVa Country Director Mali Dagmar Thießen

On site

arche noVa basically pursues the approach not to carry prefabricated solutions from outside into project areas, but to act together with the local people. Accordingly, we work closely with two local organisations in the Gao region. NORD ET DEVELOPPEMENT (nordev) and NOUVEAUX HORIZONZ (NoHo) are anchored locally and know the needs and habits of the people. The two organisations will implement the project in close cooperation with our local team in Mali. All relief supplies and the necessary material are procured locally. Local companies take over the construction projects after a call for tenders.

Project funding by SKala Phineo

Our project "Improvement of water and sanitation supply as well as income and food security in the Gao region" is supported by the SKala initiative. SKala is an initiative of the entrepreneur Susanne Klatten in partnership with the non-profit analysis and consulting company PHINEO. SKala supports about 100 non-profit organisations with a total of up to 100 million euros in the areas of inclusion and participation, commitment and competence development, bridges between generations and forgotten crises. Only organisations that have demonstrated a major social impact on PHINEO will be supported.



Project Overview


Improving water, sanitation, income and food security in the Gao region

Target Group

22,500 people in 21 villages

  • Construction and rehabilitation of 31 water facilities and sanitation facilities in schools (16 latrine blocks of 3 latrines each, 15 well drillings)
  • Construction of 3 wells and 2 animal troughs in 3 communities
  • Provision of 50 packages of chlorination tablets (48,000 tablets per package) for water treatment in 3 municipalities
  • Provision of WASH kits for 26 schools with tools, cleaning agents, etc. for the maintenance and repair of the equipment created
  • Establishment of hygiene clubs including hygiene training at 26 schools
  • Establishment and training of school administration committees for the maintenance of the facilities
  • Soil improvement for agricultural and forestry agriculture through green manure plants
  • Seeds, tools and training for 430 farmers
  • Construction of 6 grain stores
  • Training in the medical care of farm animals - construction of 5 vaccination parks (fortified gates, vaccines) for 200 medical animal helpers
  • Equipping and training 150 fishermen in fisheries law and sustainable fishing methods
  • Equipment and training for 21 women's groups (252 women) in allotment garden management and agroforestry
  • Development of a financial system comprising 21 savings groups (savings, loans)
01.07.2018 - 30.06.2020
Co-operation partners
  • NOR.DEV (Nord et Developpement)

SKala-Initiative of the PHINEO non-profit AG