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Power of the people: how community leaders tackle malnutrition in Mali

  |   SUN Civil Society Network, SUN Country Network

Dedicated local leadership supported by the SUN Movement Pooled Fund is delivering results for communities through multisectoral platforms

Following Mali’s constitutional revision in 2017, recognizing the right to food and adequate nutrition as a constitutional right for Malians, strengthened advocacy towards decision-makers at various levels was highlighted as a key priority, and identified as a role for civil society nutrition actors in Mali.  In this context, the SUN Movement Pooled Fund grantee Centre Sahélien de Prestation, d’Etudes, d’Ecodéveloppement et de Démocratie Appliquée (CSPEEDA) was selected to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations and facilitate their participation in national and regional nutrition coordination processes. Besides focusing on outcomes related to financial resourcing and accountability, CSPEEDA has conducted successful advocacy actions by integrating committed local leaders into its projects.

Kayes Region in Mali – Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0

CSPEEDA has secured agreement and commitment of 17 parliamentarians as well as 10 municipal elected representatives of the Association of Municipalities of Mali (AMM), who now champion nutrition in key decision-making processes related to legislation, policy formulation, planning and budgeting.

CSPEEDA has also successfully obtained the commitment of 15 Nutrition Champions to raise the profile of nutrition, among them Mr. Bernard Coulibaly. As a prefect of the circle including Kayes city, the chief town of the Kayes region, he is the direct representative of the state at the circles level and has the capacity to mobilize all relevant actors (including the Sub-Prefects at the communal level).

Coulibaly has shown that with active involvement of the administrative authorities (Prefects and Sub-Prefects) and the right commitment, malnutrition can become a thing of the past.


Seeing malnourished children is heart-breaking. Families do not deserve this. If as local authorities, we don’t do anything, nobody will. These are our people

Bernard Coulibaly, prefect of Kayes and nutrition champion


© UNICEF/UN0119046/Sokhin

A steadfast supporter of nutrition programmes for many years, Bernard Coulibaly oversees nutrition planning and coherent implementation across all relevant sectors in his district. As prefect, he made best use of his authority and made it compulsory for devolved sectoral governmental authorities within the district to report on nutrition progress. He was even able to extend this down to the lowest subnational levels.

Being aware of the importance of healthy diets has helped various subnational sectoral representatives to increase the delivery or coverage of nutrition services to populations and achieve change within the community: in Kayes city, the local technical service for fishing has committed to training and equipping all communes with ponds and the local hydraulic service has committed to listing all safe drinking water points in all the schools within the district, all supported by a common results framework.

Thanks to Coulibaly’s leadership, effective commitment and involvement of the administrative authorities to nutrition at the local and communal levels allows, through a multisectoral approach, to improve the nutritional status of everyone.

Challenges remain, such as the setup of communal platforms in all the communes of the circle (cercle) and the scaling up of multi-sectoral platforms at regional and then national levels, but the example of local commitment shows that there are simple, cost-effective solutions to preventing malnutrition. Indeed, with every dollar invested in the fight against malnutrition, it is estimated that a country gains an additional 16 dollars due to increased productivity. Seen this way, investing in preventing malnutrition can unleash not just the potential of all children, but the potential of an entire nation.

Political will plays an important part in the fight, spearheaded by local officials such as Bernard Coulibaly. In this regard, CSPEEDA has been successful: Bernard Coulibaly agreed to be a SUN Nutrition Champion for life.


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