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Jeunesse et Développement (J&D)

J&D is a Malian NGO established in 1991, whose projects are highly regarded both in the communities where it works and by the international agencies who fund much of the work. It is a multi-purpose organisation using community development approaches to support local community initiatives. Its achievements include:

  • a leading role in the introduction of the ‘Reflect’ approach to adult literacy in Mali and the sub-region. Reflect was pioneered by Action Aid and is now promoted and supported across West Africa by Pamoja West Africa;
  • an extended Peer Educator Reproductive Health programme in Bamako;
  • integrated development programmes in rural southern Mali, focussing on the two areas of Manankoro and Yanfolila with an emphasis on working with women, improving health care, promoting economic development and access to primary education;
  • capital projects in these same rural areas, building grain-grinding mills, school classrooms, health centres and water retention ‘barrage’ schemes.

As well as raising funds for vital development work, we intended from the beginning to build a partnership with J&D which could enable members of both organisations to learn about each other’s cultures. Educational visits in both directions have been an important feature of the relationship, and the two organisations have worked together on providing work experience for a number of young volunteers from the UK. MDG has contributed to the work of J&D by funding its project work, helping with the costs of running the organisation and ensuring that money directly reaches the communities served.

MDG is very committed to using the skills of its members when possible and this has been an important part of our work with J&D. For example, this has enabled us to support web site design, help with IT equipment, provide support for essential training and contribute to reviews of governance and staffing.

J&D is a community development organisation supporting and involving the local communities where they work, with a special emphasis on vulnerable groups such as women and children. This includes helping community groups bring forward their own plans and proposals to improve their lives and their environment. MDG  has supported many such initiatives, including the ones described below and has supported the running of J&D itself, to enable such projects to happen.


Projects proposed by communities

Men working on a dam construction project

The Mafélé and Soromba dams

These two villages in the Sikasso region wanted help to build small dams to manage their local rivers better, improve the supply of water and stop flooding in the rainy season. J&D acted as the link between MDG and the villages and helped with the planning process. In both cases the villagers provided much of the labour themselves and the effect in both cases was quite dramatic. Both projects were supported by the UK based engineering firm Ramboll, through MDG.

Red Ambulance trailer attached behind the back of a motorbike, watched by a crowd of village women

The mini-ambulance for Thian

Not all projects are big ones. The villagers of Thian were concerned about the pain and sometimes death suffered by local people in trying to get to the local hospital – examples were given of heavily pregnant women being transported on bicycles over long distances. The ambulance – a three-wheeler vehicle provided a very good and cost effective solution which has saved many lives.



Projects supporting Women

Rural women gardening in a large open field

New market gardens

We have funded a number of market garden projects where women have been enabled to share a plot of land, manage it themselves and grow vegetables for domestic use and for sale in local markets. J&D works with the women to develop a committee and the skills to organise the project so that it is self -sustaining.

Grain grinding mill operated by a woman and watched by another women and 2 men

Grain grinding mills

MDG and J&D have together provided many local women’s groups with a diesel-powered mill which is managed by the women themselves. The mill means that women no longer have to pound their grain by hand and saves them literally hours of work each day The mills are able to generate a surplus to meet maintenance and running costs, so that the mill itself is sustainable, and sometimes the profits are sufficient to fund other activities in the village.


Projects supporting J&D’s organisation

Blue Toyota landcruiser with signage "I ni ce project, lauinched by Mali Development Group, Sponsored byb Toyota (GB) plc, funded by Aylesbury Young offenders Institution"

Vehicles and vehicle maintenance

MDG had fantastic support from Toyota UK, Amersham and Wycombe College and HM Prison Service, where a Toyota Land Cruiser was renovated by the young men in Toyota’s workshop. The vehicle was then shipped to Mali for J&D’s use.

MDG also provides a contribution to the running costs of J&D’s vehicles as well as the wages of its driver, Bakele Sidibe, who, although now retired, was well know to many MDG visitors for his fantastic driving over very rough terrain!

Head shot of woman smiling

Funding a link worker

MDG’s approach is to develop a work plan of costed priorities in close collaboration with J&D. This usually provides a framework that allows both partners to have a strong understanding of their mutual responsibilities. At the same time, J&D has always valued MDG’s flexibility – sometimes it has been necessary to adapt the work plan to cover unforeseen needs.

Regular feedback to members is an important part of MDG’s work and we fund a link worker Tanty Samake (above), who reports regularly on the progress with current projects and the impact and longer-term progress of past projects.


Yanfolila Mutuelle Health Insurance

Docotr ina white coat, sven men and women with ID badges and two others in an office with a tiled floor

Between 2010 and 2013 J&D ran an extremely successful economic and health development programme in Yanfolila, close to the Guinea border, which focused on putting women in control of decisions. An external evaluation showed effective work on nutrition, hygiene and childcare, and the huge success of a Village Savings and Loans scheme which spawned 200 groups with 5000 members. With MDG’s help some of those groups have expanded into further economic activities.

The final stage of the project was the development of a ‘Mutuelle’ – a community health insurance scheme to enable local people to save in advance against the time when they need the health service. Within the area, local clinics, and District Referral centres provide basic health care services. But people have to pay for treatment and medicines, which leaves many unable to use the service – relying instead on traditional methods or just hoping for the best!

The early period of the Mutuelle’s life was tough – after a really encouraging start, an unexpected loss of funding, the political crisis in Mali and a resulting loss of confidence, meant that J&D had to work very hard to keep the scheme alive. MDG made a special appeal during 2015 to keep the project going while we tried to find the money needed to develop and expand the project. Thanks to a successful application to Comic Relief, in 2016 J&D was able to move forward with this much needed project.

Traditional musicians with their instruments leading a village group on red dust road

The Comic Relief funded phase ran for over three years and helped to maintain and consolidate the Mutuelle.The photos show the original Mutuelle committee and traditional hunters celebrating the arrival of MDG visitors to their village. The Mutuelle continues to function in 2024, but it is still challenging for many people to find enough money to keep up their monthly subscriptions and for the management committee to meet administratiion costs.

The Road to Yanfolila

And just to give you a sense of rural southern Mali, here is a stretch of the road to Yanfolila… recommended to be viewed in full screen mode.