Women benefit from growing high-value crops

Gender equalitySocial issues

Notes to broadcasters

In the Ségou region of Mali, Kouyaté Aminata, known as Mata Sangho, is a pioneer in rice production and processing. In her sixties, Mata Sangho lives in the village of Dioro, 55 kilometres from Ségou, and presides over the Djeka Baara co-operative. She started farming about thirty years ago in Dioro, an area renowned for its high rice and fish production. She created the co-op in 2017 and it has 51 members, including 41 women and 10 men. Mrs. Kouyaté Aminata has a 10-hectare rice field and a space for processing 16 different varieties of rice. 

The creation of the Djeka Baara co-operative was prompted by the fertility and productivity of the land and the Dioro women’s quest to better their lives and their roles in their family and community. Mata Sangho says that many local women and young people have responded to her call to cultivate the land. 

In this radio script, we talk about women in high-value agriculture, and meet a visionary woman and outstanding producer. We’ll dive into the inspiring journey of a woman who practices high-value farming and is determined to turn her passion for the land into a success story. 

In this program, we’ll be talking to three people. First, we’ll speak with Kouyaté Aminata, known as Mata Sangho. Second, we’ll talk to her husband, Mamoutou Kouyaté, a craftsman who contributes to her household and the success of her farming business. And finally, we’ll talk to Danzaly Coulibaly, an expert on gender equality, who will enlighten us on the types of successes and challenges experienced by women who grow high-value crops within the family.

To produce this script on your radio station, you can use voice actors and actresses to voice the roles of the interviewees, and adapt it to your local situation. In this case, be sure to inform your listeners at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors or actresses, not the original interviewees. 

You’ll also need to state that the program has been adapted for your local audience, but is based on actual interviews. 

If you want to develop programs about women who grow high-value crops, interview women rice producers and/or processors or women who grow other high-value crops, their husbands and family members, and a gender specialist.

During your interviews, you might ask them the following questions:

  • How has farming and/or processing high-value crops positively affected your family’s economic situation?
  • How does your husband contribute to household chores and support your farming activities?
  • Can the success of women growing high-value crops strengthen gender equality?
  • What challenges can women who grow high-value crops create within families? 
  • What positive changes can such women bring within families?

Estimated duration of radio script with music, intro, and extro: 25-30 minutes.

Script

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HOST:
Hello listeners, welcome to our program. Today, we’re going to talk about women who grow and process high-value crops and whose husbands support them in both their domestic and agricultural activities.

Kouyaté Aminata, known as Mata Sangho, has been a rice producer and processor in the Cercle de Dioro in the Ségou region for over thirty years. Today, she tells us all about it.

Mamoutou Kouyaté, her husband, will speak next. He is the president of the Dioro craftsmen. Finally, we’ll hear from gender expert Danzaly Coulibaly about the model of success these women can create within their families and communities.

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HOST:
Hello Mrs. Kouyaté Mata! Thank you for accepting our invitation. You’re the president of a co-operative and you’ve dedicated over thirty years of your life to agriculture. What inspired you to start growing high-value rice?

KOUYATE AMINATA:
Dioro is a district known for its high production of rice and fish. After failing in small businesses, I decided to turn to agriculture to grow rice and process it into products such as rice couscous, djouka rice, made with fonio and groundnut powder, and chipchi rice, which looks like “popcorn” but is made of rice. I took this decision in order to engage in an income-generating activity that could help me contribute to the expenses of our polygamous household. Growing and processing rice is beneficial because it allows women to be economically independent of their husbands. Underlying this idea was my desire to contribute to the economic empowerment of the women of Dioro with the means at my disposal.

I now get high yields of over 50 tons of rice on my 10 hectares.

HOST:
Do you work as an individual entrepreneur or have you involved other women or women’s groups in your high-value crop and processing activities?

KOUYATE AMINATA:
I started farming about thirty years ago. At first, I worked alone. But years later, with the number of hectares I owned and my ambition to continue farming, I decided to form a co-operative with the women and men in my area.

In the Djeka Baara Cooperative, we grow and process different kinds of rice such as paadi rice, couscous rice, and broken rice.

Since I started working in the co-operative, my income has significantly increased and I’ve had been offered contract work by various agricultural departments, received training sessions in the city, and notably increased my personal income.

HOST:
How do you manage your time between farming, your life as a housewife, and activities organized by the co-operative?

KOUYATE AMINATA:
As a housewife in Mali, it’s a bit difficult to reconcile housework with other activities.

When it comes to agriculture, women farmers who own hectares of land usually hire people to help them with work in the fields. This is also my case. It is said that “where there is a will, there is a way. ” My housework doesn’t prevent me from participating in life’s other activities. And my husband supports me in all my activities.

HOST:
How has rice farming positively affected your family’s economic situation?

KOUYATE AMINATA:
To cultivate one hectare of rice, I spend 215,000 Cfaf. After the harvest, I can sell 35 bags of rice for an income of 500,000 Cfaf from one hectare. From ten acres, I sell 350 bags and earn and income of five million Cfaf.

Can you imagine that I’m making such a high income on only 10 hectares? With this income, I pay the people I employ. The income from the sale of my bountiful harvest gives a positive boost to my family’s economic situation and to my economic empowerment. And the whole family wins. It’s usually the man who provides for the family, but I contribute and help my husband to meet the family’s expenses. And that strengthens gender equality in the home.

HOST:
How does your husband support you?

KOUYATE AMINATA:
There’s a lot of complicity and understanding between my husband and me. First of all, I consult him in everything I do. Even before I started farming, he helped me with the housework. He takes care of the children and gets me firewood for the kitchen. He helps me with all my household chores, even though in Mali it’s the woman who does the housework.

He wants to empower me. When I’m busy or late, he accompanies me to the market and other activities. In my agricultural activities, he helps me choose the right seeds and fertilizers, prepare compost, and transport it to the field.

HOST:
Have other women or women’s groups in the community shown interest or been inspired by your initiative?

KOUYATE AMINATA:
I’ve been approached by thousands of women and women’s associations about my good and useful work. I persevered despite the prejudices and discouragement of some men and women. Thanks to this effort, I have the hectares that few others in this sector have and few others can boast similar results.

Many are inspired by what I do, from rice production to processing. This interest in my work has encouraged me to train women in Dioro and elsewhere in rice production and processing. I’ve even been to Mauritania to train women from a processing company, and to Senegal.

HOST:
How can women encourage or convince their husbands and families to support them in similar initiatives?

KOUYATE AMINATA:
Setting clear goals and taking the initiative is essential. At first, it wasn’t easy to convince my husband. But over time, because of my determination and because of the actions I took which he could see, he began to support my farming activities.

HOST:
Do you have a message for women and for other people?

KOUYATE AMINATA:
I invite women to get involved in income-generating activities like farming. I also encourage them to work with men to steer the ship safely together. I urge agricultural departments to help women gain access to land and funding to boost the agricultural sector and promote women’s activities. It’s up to men to support women’s economic activities in all the sectors in which they operate.

HOST:
Thank you, Aminata Sangho, for those details. We’re now going to speak to Mamoutou Kouyaté, Aminata Sangho’s husband. He is the president of the craftsmen of the Cercle de Dioro.

So, Mamatou Kouyaté, how do you support your wife?

MAMOUTOU KOUYATÉ:
We are a family of artisans. We practice agriculture and handicrafts. I do everything I can to support her—whether it’s providing positive reinforcement and praise for her work or approaching the authorities, the people in charge, or any other project that can help her. To ensure that she has a good harvest, I work in the fields when necessary, helping her with selecting seeds and also with housework.

As a craftsman, I also help her with agricultural equipment. I look for opportunities and funding for her and help her apply for invitations to tender. To boost my wife’s business, I spare no expense.

HOST:
How do you manage your own work and other responsibilities while doing housework?

MAMOUTOU KOUYATE:
I organize myself because my workshop is located in front of my house, and also because I want to empower my family. Early in the morning, I help with the housework, taking the children to the bathroom, cleaning up the house, and many other tasks, before I go to work. Afterwards, I accompany her to the field or to her processing site.

It’s true that my schedule is a bit hectic, but that doesn’t stop me from helping my wife around the house. Since she started farming years ago, I’ve rearranged my schedule to support her.

After morning classes, I pick up the children from school at 12 p.m. If their mother is still busy, I feed them and take them back to school for afternoon classes at three p.m.

HOST:
What motivates you to actively support your wife in rice farming?

MAMOUTOU KOUYATE:
I’m motivated to support my wife because of what she does. It is rare to find such a woman in Dioro, as she has managed to turn her passion for the land into a success story.

Any man who sees his wife juggling housework, farming, and caring for the children will be motivated to support her. The fight for the advancement of women is her daily battle.

HOST:
Have there been any positive or negative reactions or comments from other family or community members regarding the support you are giving your wife? How do you deal with them?

MAMOUTOU KOUYATE:
Negative comments are unending. What’s unfortunate in a man’s life is when other people believe these false accusations.

Some people criticize me for helping with household and agricultural work. This is because of the old belief that housework is reserved for women. But as far as I’m concerned, men and women complement each other, and there’s nothing wrong with helping your partner.

All I get is encouragement from family members, but people with whom I don’t share the same beliefs label me a slave to women. I receive such negative reactions and comments every day, but I don’t speak out. It’s just meant to stop me from supporting my wife. As her husband, I know the role she plays in the family.

HOST:
How has your wife’s active participation in household chores and support for her initiatives helped improve your living conditions?

MAMOUTOU KOUYATE:
As a craftsman, she refers farmers to me to have their tools made. All the members of her co-operative also buy some of their children’s school supplies from me.

One day, a project approached her about a partnership with a craftsman who makes ploughing tools. She proposed a partnership. It was a long-term partnership and a great opportunity for my business. Today, my business has grown a little more, thanks to her goodwill and the opportunities and contacts she provides to me.

Helping her has taught me to cook on my own and tidy up the house when she’s away.

Today, women call me Nafama Tchè, which means: a man who has understood his positive masculinity. I owe a lot to my wife for what she has helped me to be today.

HOST:
How do you make decisions together as a couple, especially about farming and domestic responsibilities?

MAMOUTOU KOUYATE:
First of all, I’m a man who listens, discusses, and communicates. When it comes to major family decisions, I hold regular family meetings. I invite my wives and children, and I raise the issue. First I give my opinion and then I listen to them. If one of them makes a suggestion that seems better than mine, then we adopt it. So family consultation is always part of the equation. I also consult her first before the family meeting, at the end of which the family’s decisions are taken.

When it comes to deciding on agricultural matters, since it is her line of business, I let her make proposals. I then respond to her proposals. And we make a decision together.

HOST:
To conclude, what can you tell us about your wife Aminata Sangho and her rice-farming business?

MAMOUTOU KOUYATE:
She is worthy of trust and respect. I like people who work and want to live by the sweat of their brow. And she’s one of those people. She is one of the pioneers in the agricultural sector in the Dioro Cercle.

HOST:
Thank you, Mr. Kouyaté. Our last speaker is Mr. Danzaly Coulibaly. He’s a gender expert in Ségou and also the Regional Director for the Promotion of Women, Children and the Family. He is one of the few men working for gender equality and the promotion of women in the Ségou region.

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HOST:
Hello, Mr. Coulibaly! How can the individual success of women or groups of women working with high-value crops positively influence gender dynamics within a family and strengthen gender equality?

DANZALY COULIBALY:
Involving women in the cultivation of high-income cereal production contributes to their economic empowerment, which in turn promotes their independence. The increase in their income has a positive impact on the gender dynamics within their families. Because they make a significant economic contribution, they are considered to be involved in family decision-making. A woman who earns an income invests as much as a man in the development and well-being of her family.

HOST:
What are the challenges and successes that women can bring to the family with these types of activities?

DANZALY COULIBALY:
Some women face social prejudice if they own hectares of land and their husbands do not. Gender inequalities and social norms that are biased against women mean that they do not typically thrive in agriculture: they generally do not have access to land, seeds, or inputs. So this remains a challenge for some men. And an advantage for women who make their voices heard.

Within the family, they can gain more respect and consideration from their spouse, family members, and even their community by participating in high-value crops. If the wife works, the husband’s burden is reduced and she too can develop psycho-socially.

The achievements of women who are involved in income-generating activities in the formal and informal sectors can lead to their economic empowerment and fulfillment.

HOST:
Thank you, Mr. Coulibaly, for these details. We’ve come to the end of our program on women who grow and process high-value crops and benefit from the support of their husbands in their household and farming activities.

The involvement of women in agriculture, particularly in the cultivation of high-value crops, can help to change stereotypes about the roles of men and women in the family and in Malian society.

It’s time to challenge some of the old beliefs about women which held that they were destined only for unpaid family work. Today, it is clear that women, alongside men, can be major contributors to their families and, in particular, through income-generating activities.

Thank you for your kind attention. We will be back soon with another program.

Acknowledgements

Contributed by: Fatoumata Z. Coulibaly, Journalist-Writer in Mali, Segou

Reviewed by: Tanne, K. Christian Yannick, agronomist engineer, specializing in animal husbandry and production

Interviews:  Kouyaté Aminata (known as Mata Sangho), President of the Djeka Baara Cooperative. Interview conducted on January 9, 2024.

Mamoutou Kouyaté, husband of Aminata known as Mata Sangho. Interview conducted on January 9, 2024.

Danzaly Coulibaly, gender equality expert, Regional Director for the Promotion of Women and Children, Ségou. Interview conducted on January 10, 2024.

This resource was produced as part of the “UCARE – Unpaid Care in sub-Saharan Africa” initiative, which aims to strengthen gender equality and women’s empowerment through a commitment to a fairer and more equitable sharing of unpaid care and domestic work within the household and family in sub-Saharan Africa. The project is implemented in partnership with Farm Radio International (FRI), UN Women and the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), with funding from Global Affairs Canada.