Community Development Programme

Country Profile: Mali


13,518,000 (2005)

Official Language


Poverty (Population living on less than 1 US$ per day):

72.3 (1990-2004)

Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)

24% (2005)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995–2004)
  • Total: 19%
  • Male: 27%
  • Female: 12%
Total Youth Literacy Rate (15–24 years)

24% (1995-2004)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP



Programme Overview

Programme TitleCommunity Development Programme
Implementing OrganizationJeunesse & Développement (J&D)
FundingDFID – UK Department for International Development
Foundation Stromme
Mali Development Group
Methodist Relief and Development Funds (MRDF)
DVV International
Date of Inception2000

Context and Background

Since 1993, Mali – one of the world’s poorest countries – has been undergoing a large-scale process of decentralisation aimed at bringing about cohesive and sustainable development. Local institutions have been established, but the efficient running of these institutions has been impeded by a number of constraints including:

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodology

Jeunesse et Développement (J&D), a national NGO involved mainly in education, training and the provision of information, started its activities in rural areas, with the objective of facilitating community self-development. Anxious to listen to its future partners and keen not to impose ready-made solutions on development issues, J&D carried out a month-long preliminary study in 1999 focussing on four main areas: health, the environment, the situation of women and literacy. The results of the study were used as the basis for launching the Community Development Programme in 2000. Initially, the programme concentrated on literacy and health with funding from the British Embassy. Since then, it has been able to secure the assistance of other partners (Stromme Foundation, Mali Development Group, Methodist Relief and Development Fund and DVV International) to enable it to implement further programme components.

Target Groups and Objectives

The Community Development Programme targets women, men, schoolchildren, out-of-school children and local councillors in the communities of Sibirila, Yinindougou and Kouroulamini in Sikasso.


Its objectives are to:

Concept and Methods

The Community Development Programme’s conceptual model is founded on the values and principles of adult education, which encompass knowledge, expertise, interpersonal skills, participation and empowerment. It is operationalised using the Stepping Stones and Reflect (STAR) approach which is now widely used in African communities. Reflect combines the tools and techniques of participatory research with communication techniques that follow the philosophy of Paulo Freire, while Stepping Stones is a communication and training tool, again based on participatory methods, which was developed to address the vulnerability of young people and women with regard to decisions about their sexuality. This approach helps people think about a wide range of factors affecting reproductive health such as gender relations, local traditions, attitudes to sexuality, money and alcohol. Both Reflect and Stepping Stones promote the gender perspective.


Reflect/STAR circles are established in villages in which the programme operates. These circles usually comprise around 30 members, each with key responsibilities and a clear desire to learn how to read and write in order to be able to pursue their interests, which usually include health, education, the environment and citizenship. Led by a trained facilitator from the community, the circles meet several times a week (the participants themselves decide how often).

The first part of each meeting involves discussions on and an analysis of specific topics through visual participatory methods. HIV and AIDS prevention is integrated into all of the topics covered. The second part of the meeting is devoted to addressing the challenge of illiteracy. The tools and contents of the analysis form the basis for learning; there is no need for literacy primers or other written materials, thus reducing the cost of resources compared to the traditional approach. Furthermore, the fact that learning is based on the ideas that arise from discussions with the learners themselves makes the learning process both relatively rapid and inclusive. These groups act as community nuclei, generating ideas for action that will address the challenges discussed during the meetings. Other community members, including traditional and administrative authorities, are involved during the implementation of the ideas developed through the projects. This enables the entire population to take responsibility for both planning and implementing development activities while J&D provides technical advice and support. There is a transfer of skills, not only with regard to literacy promotion but also with regard to project organization/ administration and resource mobilisation. Broad-based participation is one of the key principles on which this methodology is founded and enables the population to identify with and to work towards the projects’ success.

Programme Structure and Facilitators


The programme is headed by a programme coordinator and an assistant/deputy, and consists of a team of three health workers, five community development workers, over 80 facilitators and a similar number of peer educators. Village committees oversee activities and mobilise citizen participation. The Civic Education Committee (CEC) builds citizen capacity through Reflect circles in villages, while the School Steering Committee (SSC) oversees students’ transition from the non-formal to the formal education system.

The Women’s Group Steering Committee has a central office which is responsible for the planning and implementation of the group’s income-generating projects, including loans/credits and savings, market gardening and milling, amongst others.

Finally, the Children´s Committees are made up of parents who discuss ways and means of preventing child trafficking. Some village members are also identified as peer educators and are chiefly responsible for reproductive health education and for distributing STD/HIV/AIDS prevention items to the communities.

Facilitators (two per learning circle) are recruited from within the communities on a long-term basis and continue their activities even after NGO funding runs out. In addition to facilitating, they also play a leadership role in local advocacy and in the implementation of programme activities. Facilitators receive 15 hours of Reflect training, eight days of STAR training (reproductive health and HIV/AIDS) and five days of training in project implementation techniques. Refresher courses on topics identified during monitoring and evaluation exercises are held at least twice a year and there is also a quarterly forum for facilitators, enabling them to share success stories, problems and potential solutions. Informal exchange visits that provide facilitators with practical support are also encouraged.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Monitoring and Evaluation

In addition to the structure of the programme, which guarantees a continuous monitoring process, an internal evaluation is carried out every three months. Once a year, the financing partners evaluate the impact of the programme.

Impact / Achievements

Efforts to mobilise the communities to improve their individual and community situations have achieved a great deal. At the community level, Civic Action Centres have been established in every village, consisting of a library, a learning space for the acquisition of reading, writing and arithmetic skills, a legal activity space, and a video centre with audio and audiovisual cassettes. Alongside these Civic Action Centres there are the community health centres (CHCs) which are run with a high degree of community involvement and have a total of 3,075 members with 80 percent of membership cards owned by family heads. Aside from the Reflect-based village committees mentioned above, village hygiene and sanitation committees have also been set up, indicating the extent and depth of community involvement in a range of issues. 80 percent of the children who were formerly enrolled in the non-formal education system have moved to the formal system. 40 Reflect circles have been established, enabling 1,080 members to become literate every two years, 60 percent of them women. Furthermore, women’s participation in local organizations and community projects has increased considerably, boosting their self-sufficiency as a result of their improved ability to generate personal income.

Access to health care services and facilities has increased due to a rise in the proportion of people able to recognise and treat child illnesses (malnutrition, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, malaria) and STDs/HIV/AIDS. CHAs (Community Healthcare Associations) have been set up which

Contraceptives and basic medication are now being distributed on a community basis in 36 villages. In each village, two agents advise people on HIV prevention, childcare and health. Community literacy is sustained through audio programmes and the distribution of visual materials through the community library. One Civic Education Committee member keeps a selection of related documents in his/her home. These are freely accessible to villagers and contain information on decentralisation and issues of democracy. In 2003, facilitators also launched a community newspaper in response to the lack of specially-designed reading materials. A publishing committee composed of Civic Education Committee members has been set up.

Future Plans and Challenges

The future of the programme will be heavily dependent on whether or not the government will assume responsibility for the Civic Action Centres. Remuneration for facilitators continues to pose a major challenge. Usually, such remuneration is derived from the income-generating activities carried out by each of the circles and is very low, despite the increasing need for qualified individuals. Unfortunately, although many organizations are willing to pay for managers and trainers, they refuse to give salaries to facilitators on the grounds that they are volunteers. This situation is weakening the programme, since the best facilitators often leave and seek work in better-paid sectors. There is therefore a pressing need to boost facilitators’ motivation to remain in the programme. It is also imperative that the local authorities recognise literacy and HIV/AIDS prevention as important elements of the community development plan. The lack of a clear and well-defined framework for forming partnerships between state services and NGOs needs to be addressed because partnerships with clear lines of responsibility must be fostered in order to enable lessons to be shared and activities to be organized more coherently.

Lessons Learned

It is clear that the involvement of communities in a programme’s implementation plays a key role in consolidating the knowledge that they have gained, even after the NGO is no longer involved, provided that a sustainable plan is in place that involves the state, communities and community leaders. The programme has furthermore demonstrated that as people become increasingly well-informed about the laws and processes affecting their lives and environment, they start to take a more proactive role in decision-making and management processes. However, this also means that there is a continuous need to build the capacities of people, authorities and local organizations so that they can acquire more responsibilities and knowledge.


Since local actors are directly involved in the implementation of the programme, it is effectively owned by the community. Knowledge transfer and capacity-building enable local authorities to initiate and realise projects of their own that reflect and meet their specific needs.


Diarra Cheick Mahamadou
Jeunesse et Développement
Rue Lafiabougou 426
Porte 286
diarra_sama (at)


Last update: 29 Octobre 2009