Sahel 21, a Terre Sans Frontières subsidiary (Sahel 21 -TSF) in Mali, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Born from Jean Coutu’s desire to help the people of Sub-Saharan Africa take control of their destiny, Sahel 21-TSF has always been able to count on the Marcelle and Jean Coutu Foundation’s support. Over the years, it has grown into an organization that has 47 employees and deep roots in the community, and is frequently cited for its work.
Sahel 21-TSF quickly made its mark by putting forward initiatives that were consistent with traditional knowledge-sharing approaches, so the training available to villagers often took on the form of talks or debates under the palaver tree.
The organization also built solid foundations for its operations by creating and structuring Village Development Associations (VDA) at several locations in the Koulikoro Region. These associations operated under three key principles, with a view to strengthening the communities they represented: build an infrastructure that makes it possible to meet socio-productive and educational needs; implement a rotating fund to support economic initiatives; and establish a sound governance system, led by each association, to offer individuals and communities a legal and institutional development framework.
This has provided the villages with the support they need to take control of their development, democratically. Projects address six focus areas, i.e. local development, literacy, health, revolving credit, food security and rural entrepreneurship, creating opportunities for individuals to increase their autonomy while contributing to their communities.
Today, 24 villages, grouping together more than 50,000 inhabitants of Kolokani Cercle in the Koulikoro Region, work with Sahel 21-TSF. Eleven of these villages coordinate their development activities entirely on their own and have attained an advanced level of autonomy.
Three years ago, Sahel 21-TSF took on another responsibility and began overseeing an emergency shelter and infrastructure program in the northern part of the country. The purpose of this UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)-funded project is to support the reintegration of returnees in Mali.