An example of the networking between humanitarian aid and development in Mali

Jean-Bernard Veron, the author of this text, is a long-time development specialist within FAD and now in several NGOs. He has played an important role in bringing humanitarian and development closer together to better meet the needs of populations in crisis zones that he also knows as a man in the field. The case study presented here, which dates back a few years, is a good example of the diversity of possible modes of intervention and their complementarity. 


This networking, in a crisis context, between humanitarian aid for displaced populations and host communities and the revival of economic activities, took place in Mali in the Mopti region, more precisely in Konna and Barygodonga, as well as in Gao and Timbuktu.

Funded by the Foundation of France, these projects were implemented on the ground by the APFO [1]

Animals around the troughs of a water tower in rural Mali ©Solidarites International 2019

1. Purpose and objectives

The selection of projects was based on a twofold observation.

On the one hand, the security crisis has jeopardized the coverage of the needs of IDPs and has led to an overload in host communities, particularly in the area of food.

On the other hand, IDPs have had to interrupt the activities that enabled them to be economically self-sufficient. Moreover, their return, once security was restored, would be hampered by the deterioration of their means of production: looted seed stocks, bunds on irrigated perimeters and degraded contour lines due to lack of maintenance, slaughtered or stolen livestock.

These projects therefore aim to help populations affected by the crisis by targeting rural activities, agriculture and livestock breeding, and by combining humanitarian aid and the revival of the beneficiaries’ economic activities.

They are therefore multi-objective projects, in line with this dual purpose.

The first of these objectives is to cover the basic needs of IDPs. To this end, food supplies, impregnated mosquito nets against malaria and, where necessary, the care of malnourished children have been financed.

The second is to relaunch activities that will enable beneficiaries to do without humanitarian aid and regain their autonomy when the security of their region of origin allows them to return.

To this end, the projects have financed :

  • for agricultural activities: seeds and inputs, shovels and wheelbarrows to rehabilitate the dikes of irrigation perimeters, donkeys and carts to transport crops and manure;
  • for livestock: sheep and ewes for the benefit of the women who were engaged in this activity, in addition to market gardening, as well as cotton cake for animal feed.

The third objective, and this is one of the specific features of these projects, is to strengthen the resilience of the beneficiaries in the face of risks, particularly climatic risks. Thus :

  • the seeds provided are selected seeds, particularly wasa rice, combining good yields, adaptation to sometimes erratic rainfall, favouring short-cycle varieties that are resistant to parasitic weeds such as striga ;
  • the women who are to take care of the animals receive training in fattening and care.

The fourth objective, and this is another specificity, is appropriation, according to a bottom-up approach that favours the use of local structures. This is how projects are proposed and implemented by FOs (grassroots farmers’ organisations) without recourse to foreign actors, such as humanitarian or development NGOs. The content of the projects and the choice of beneficiaries is made through discussions between the members of each of the FOs concerned.

As regards the relationship between the beneficiaries of irrigated rice projects and their FOs, the latter provide seeds, inputs and diesel for irrigation pumps and collect a fee at harvest time to cover these costs. FOs can also buy the crops from farmers and sell them on wholesale markets.

Regional APFOs provide technical support [2] and make available to FOs the financing delegated to them by the national APFO [3]. As for the latter, it centralises the requests coming from the grassroots, which it compares with the available resources. It is also responsible for the capitalisation and dissemination functions among member organisations, in particular by resorting to exchange visits between FOs.

Farm in Mali, ©MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko

2. The projects and their results

A point to be underlined is that these projects, with few exceptions, include components implemented by men, in this case rice growing, and others devolved to women in the form of market gardening and/or livestock farming.

As a result, they are in line with a principle of diversification of activities that enables families to better cope with possible hazards, particularly climatic ones.

It should also be noted that in this respect they are based on precautionary practices that predate the current political and security crisis.

There are two projects in the Mopti region.

The Konna FO project targets rice cultivation. It is an irrigated perimeter comprising 300 plots of land of between a quarter and a hectare each. The first harvest shows quite respectable yields, varying between 40 and 50 quintals of paddy per hectare.

The Barygondonga FO combines a market gardening component, carried by the women of this village and focused on the production of onions and potatoes, and a fish farming component implemented by young men (production of fry and a grow-out basin). It should be noted that the women of the FO borrowed from a microfinance institution to build two storage sheds and they repaid this loan without difficulty.

There are also two projects in the north of the country.

The one in Gao has an agricultural component, centred on rice cultivation with the provision of seeds and inputs, as well as wheelbarrows and shovels to repair the dikes, and a livestock component with the provision of two sheep/sheep per woman, cotton cake as animal feed and basic training in veterinary care and fattening.

The rice farmers benefiting from this project have recorded a satisfactory harvest, while farmers in the surrounding area, who grow rainfed or bank crops, have suffered from the lack of rainfall during the last winter.

The project in Timbuktu has the same irrigated rice and livestock components, to which is added a market gardening component for women.

The results obtained by these projects are interesting :

  • yield of 50 to 60 quintals of paddy per hectare;
  • increase from 2 to 8 beds for each of the women beneficiaries of the market gardening component;
  • earlier calving of the ewes;
  • revival of the seed dynamic [4], it being specified that the seeds used are of good quality, adapted to the climatic context and supplied by specialised FOs supported by a project financed by IFAD;
  • securing part of the income from the sale of market garden produce, by selling on credit to civil servants who are more reliable consumers because they receive a salary to guarantee payment of their purchases.

As for the choice of beneficiaries by the FOs concerned, it targeted either the most vulnerable, especially widows, or some particularly efficient actors, in order to serve as examples for the other members of the FO.

3. Conclusion

Each of these projects can be considered technically successful in view of the yields obtained or the fact that the ewes have already had a first calving. They are also in line with the target number of families affected.

Moreover, where there have been cost overruns as mentioned in the call for projects, these overruns have been borne by the PDOPA without reducing either the volume of supplies or the number of beneficiaries.

Market gardening project in the Mopti region of Mali ©AFD

However, this does not mean that they do not face various difficulties. These are of two kinds.

Difficulties due to the vagaries of the weather and, more specifically, the mediocrity of the last wintering, resulting in reduced water availability and the impossibility of linking two crop cycles together. Irrigation pumps have been able to partially overcome these problems, but at the limit of their capacity. And some of them look dangerously old.

More worrying is the question of crop marketing. Indeed, their marketing may have locally and temporarily unbalanced the supply-demand ratio and thus had a depressing impact on sales prices.

To cope with this, storage and conservation capacities for perishable foodstuffs, such as onions or milk, need to be set up. These will make it possible to spread out the flow of products over time. In order to meet this challenge, contacts have been established with a system of collective granaries financed by Swiss Cooperation under the Pana Go project.

Jean-Bernard Véron

Who is Jean-Bernard Véron?

Jean-Bernard Véron - BabelioJean-Bernard Véron is currently a member of the editorial team of the magazine Afrique Contemporaine, after having been its editor-in-chief for 12 years. He is also a member of the Nepal and Emergency/Post-Emergency Committees of the Fondation de France, after having been the director of the International Solidarity Committee. Finally, he is a member of the bureau and the board of directors of the Franco-Laotian NGO CCL (Committee for Cooperation with Laos) and a member of the board of directors of the Franco-Afghan NGO AFRANE.

He has spent most of his professional career at the French Development Agency, where he held the positions of :

  • project manager at the Brazzaville agency
  • project Manager in the Economic Studies Division
  • geographical desk officer Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea
  • geographical desk officer Madagascar, Somalia, Djibouti
  • project manager in the Macroeconomic Studies Division
  • head of the Macroeconomic Studies Division
  • head of the Agricultural and Rural Development Division for Central, Eastern and Southern Africa
  • director of the Asia, Caribbean, Pacific Department
  • adviser to the Director of Strategy
  • head of the Crisis Prevention and Post-Conflict Unit

Jean-Bernard Véron is a graduate of the Institut of Political Science of Paris (International Relations section), holds a DEA in Economics and a DEA in Political Science and B.A. degrees in History, Geography, Anthropology and American Literature.

[1] The APFO (Association of Professional Farmers’ Organisations) brings together some 200 organisations, which may take the form of associations, cooperatives or farmers’ unions.

[2] With the exception of projects implemented in Gao and Timbuktu, where, given the insufficient capacities of the two regional AOPPs. Support was indeed provided by the National AOPP.

[3] The National AOPP also carries out advocacy work vis-à-vis the public authorities, in particular to operationalise the agricultural orientation law passed by parliament or to denounce land expropriations. In addition, it has set itself the complementary objective of strengthening grassroots organisations and empowering them financially.

[4] Several POs have therefore embarked on the production of improved seeds, adapted to the different ecosystems of Mali and duly certified.

Globl Humanitarian Assistance Report 2020 – Key figures

Development Initiatives has published the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report for 20 years now. It provides a detailed picture of the funding of international humanitarian assistance through a wealth of accurate data.

You will find here a summary of the 4 chapters of this report.

Enjoy reading it!


You will find here the PDF of the complete Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2020.

You should watch the animated summary of the GHAR 2020.

Chapter 1: People and Crisis

This first chapter draws a global image of the spread of poverty around the world. It connects this phenomenon with countries experiencing protracted crisis.

It focuses on gender, stating that “women are often disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises”, while they are also “disadvantaged by gender inequalities and vulnerabilities”. The difficulty to access gender-disaggregated data in aid spending hinders our capacity to evaluate the extent to which “women and girls are affected in humanitarian crises”. According to existing figures, “ODA1 relevant to gender-based violence (GBV) has increased gradually since 2016”. It represents, however, only 0.7% of total ODA.

Data from the report enables to create a map of people affected by crisis, and in need of humanitarian assistance. The authors estimate that 215.6 million people living in 69 countries are in need of humanitarian assistance. 57% of them live in 10 countries. Of these 10 countries, only 4 are among “the 10 countries receiving the largest volumes of funding through UN appeals”.

Chapter 2: International Humanitarian Assistance

International Humanitarian Assistance falls for the first time since 2015

“In 2019, total international humanitarian assistance from governments and EU institutions and estimated contributions from private donors decreased by US$1.6 billion to US$29.6 billion.” This is a 5% fall, which follows 4 years of growth. This sharp decrease is mainly due to “a fall in funding from governments and EU institutions, which decreased by 8%”.

On the opposite, UN appeals increased by 5%, and requirements met increased, from 60% to 64% in 2019.

The volume of international assistance provided by the 20 largest donors reduced in 2019. Indeed the trend of slower growth lasts since 2014. It was interrupted in 2018 by the exceptional contributions from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They increased their contribution by 1.8 billion USD in 2018, and reduced it by 1.5 billion USD the next year. As a result, regional contributions from the Middle East and North of Sahara fell by 44% in 2019.

On a regional scale, only Europe increased slightly its contributions by 1.9%. This is driven primarily by “a large rise in international humanitarian assistance from the UK, rising by 24%”. 

Finally, the authors note the significant role of private donors, which contributions “have consistently made up just over a fifth of total international humanitarian assistance”.

The largest recipients, a stable group, experiencing protracted crisis

This very clear figure shows the 10 largest recipient of international humanitarian assistance in 2018.

To keep in mind :

  • Syria did not receive the largest amount of assistance for the first time in seven years.
  • The increase in assistance to Yemen is due to Middle Eastern donors: “In 2017, 29% of total funding to Yemen came from these two donors [UAE and Saudi Arabia]. By 2018, this proportion had grown to 69%”.
  • The largest recipient are a relatively stable group, because most of them experience protracted crisis.
  • Outside the 10 largest recipient, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and Niger saw major increase in funding received.

Finally, this chapter focuses on ODA targeting disaster risk reduction. International humanitarian assistance for Disaster Risk Reduction gains importance as “climate change is likely to have (…) profound and long-lasting impacts on people’s lives”. It appears that this specific ODA is well targeted to countries at “very high” or “high” risk or natural catastrophe. ODA with primary focus on Disaster Risk Reduction represents, however, only a small proportion of total ODA, varying between 0.5% and 1.7%.

Chapter 3: Funding for effectiveness and efficiency

The total international humanitarian response in 2018 was of 31.2 billion USD. Channels of delivery of this assistance have not changed much since 2017. Governments mostly give to multilateral agencies (62%), while private donors continue to donate in majority to NGOs (89%, which represents 56% of the total funding to NGOs). When we take into account both governments and private donors, “funding to NGOs (…) as a proportion of total international humanitarian assistance decreased from 35% in 2017 to 30% in 2018”.

Sharp fall of direct funding to local and national actors

Data on the beneficiaries of funds allocated to international humanitarian aid are not easily accessible. Indeed, “beyond funding to first-level recipients, there continues to be a lack of data on subsequent transactions,” making it difficult to analyze the effectiveness and efficiency of aid spending.

Data analyzed by Development Initiatives, including OCHA FTS2 , show that direct funding to local and national actors has been significantly reduced in 2019 . Thus, in the diagram above, we can see a decrease, both in proportion and volume, in direct funding to local and national actors.

UN pooled funds, which provide a flexible, country-led funding option under the Country-based pooled fund (CBPF), increased by 25% in 2019. However, this increase is mainly due to a 55 percent increase in funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and not from the CBPFs.

“NGOs receive more than two thirds of the funding allocated from CBPFs”, however 65% of CBPF funding allocated to NGOs aimed at international NGOs, while 35% targeted local and national NGOs. CBPFs are an important source of funding for local and national actors, but they “remain a small part of total humanitarian assistance, representing just 4% of total public donor contributions in 2019”. There are also wide differences between country-based pooled funds: for instance, “the Iraq Humanitarian Fund allocated 0.9% of its funding to local and national NGOs, while the occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund allocated 36.9%”.

“Quality funding”, an option favored during the Grand Bargain, but still little used

The last part of this chapter focuses on “quality funding”, which encompasses unearmarked and multi-year funding. While multi-year funding have largely increased, “unearmarked funding as a proportion of total funding has decreased steadily since 2015”, and its volume dropped in 2019 below 2015 levels. A great increase was seen, however, regarding the use of cash and voucher assistance (CVA), which volume has grown steadily since 2015.

In 2016, at the World Humanitarian Summit, the five largest donors and the six largest UN agencies signed a document of 51 decisions to make aid more effective. This is called the “Grand Bargain“, which today has 61 signatories (24 states, 11 UN agencies, 5 intergovernmental and Red Cross organizations and 21 NGOs). Improving traceability and the flexibility of the funds allocated were major points of this report. However, the authors, here and later in the report, clearly show the difficulty of access to reliable and comparable data, as well as the lack of flexibility in the funds released. It is difficult, after reading this report, to conclude that good progress has been made by States and international donors on the points raised during the Grand Bargain.

Read more on the Grand Bargain, here, on Défis Humanitaires.

Chapter 4: Crisis financing to the Covid-19 pandemic response

Covid-19, a pandemic with multiple consequences, has a negative impact on international humanitarian aid

This last chapter analyzes crisis financing to the Covid-19 pandemic response. While requirements and needs have largely increased due to the pandemic, resources, including ODA, have reduced. Indeed, “total UN humanitarian appeal funding requirements for 2020 have already reached 37.7 billion USD, 25% higher than in June 2019”. Simultaneously, resources, such as foreign direct investment, tourism, remittances etc., fall because of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

Development Initatives calculated that “total ODA may fall from 2019 levels of 153billion USD to, at best, 143 billion USD in 2020 (…) At worst, total ODA may fall to 139 billion in 2020 before falling further to 134 billion USD (a 12% reduction) in 2021”. These projections are likely to severely affect countries, as “ODA represents more than a quarter of all government expenditure for a third of countries within the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP)”.

In June 2020, 20% of the 37.7 billion USD of UN humanitarian appeal funding requirements had been met, “with the same proportion, on average, of requirements fulfilled for the Covid-19 appeal and for other humanitarian appeals” – donors did not prioritize Covid-19 response to other crises. Although it is a bit lower than the 23% of requirements met June last year (2019), it is higher in volume by 578 million USD.

The delivery of aid varied from usual, as a lower proportion was allocated directly to countries, with “a sixth of total allocations going to global support services”.

Repartition of total appeal funding related/non related to Covid-19

2020 – not Covid-19 related 2020 – Covid-19 related
Directly to countries’ plans 83% 74%
Support services 17%
Regional Response plans 17% 8%

Who gives and to whom? The main donors of the response to Covid-19 are the same as those providing the largest volume of humanitarian aid in 2019

As of donors, they mostly are the same as usual: “the three donors providing the largest volumes of international humanitarian assistance in 2019 are the largest donors to the Covid-19 response”. Namely the US, Germany and the UK, who provided 44% of total grants from public donors to the Covid-19 pandemic response.

The international humanitarian assistance to fight Covid-19 mostly channeled through UN agencies: “As of 24 June 2020, almost three quarters of the total international humanitarian assistance to the Covid-19 response was channeled through multilateral organizations”.

92% of this went to four UN agencies, namely:

  • The World Health Organization (38% of funding to UN agencies and other multilateral organizations)
  • The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (24%)
  • The World Food Programme (17%)
  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (13%).

In comparison, NGOs received less than usual, with “just 5.1% of the total international humanitarian assistance for Covid-19 – compared to an average of 19% directed to NGOs and CSOs by governments between 2014 and 2018”.

Covid-19, what to learn from the financing of this crisis?

Let’s end this article on a positive note. There is one benefic aspect to this health crisis, that is the greater flexibility in funding it imposed on donors. UN agencies issued new flexibility guidelines, promoting re-programming of existing funding, lighter process for negotiation and disbursement, and simplification of processes such as due diligence and reporting. These aspects are in line with Grand Bargain decision to increase flexible funding. The question remains whether it will last beyond the pandemic or not?


Madeleine Trentesaux

[1] ODA – Official Development Aid

[2] UN OCHA- FTS – United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid- Financial Tracking Service