Mali: Best Practice Case Studies

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Energy programs have been implemented across Africa by various organizations for over twenty-five years. Programs have evolved and improved by taking advantage of both formal and informal communication of program features and lessons learned.
The Best Practice projects presented herein seek to build experience and knowledge by establishing a structure for sharing best practices to help meet today’s complex energy challenges.

Multifunctional Platforms in Mali

As part of a decade-long initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the multi-functional platform project provides decentralized energy to rural villages in response to requests from local women’s associations in Mali.
The small size and dispersed locations of villages in Mali make off-grid decentralized mechanical and electric energy supply the only viable option. The multifunctional platform is a 10-horsepower diesel engine that was purposefully designed to take into account multiple end uses for energy in rural economies.

The project objectives were to:

  • Provide de-centralized and sustainable energy supply to Malian villages
  • Free women from arduous, repetitive, and time consuming tasks for better quality of life and ability to pursue income-generating activities and education
  • Aid women’s associations in obtaining credit
  • Train women in management and maintenance and provide them with numeracy, literacy, and entrepreneurial skills
  • Spur small-scale industrial development

Implementation Strategy

Different combinations of end-use equipment are possible, according to seasonal and daily requirements, and different modules can be acquired over time to meet changing needs. For instance, one platform can simultaneously run a mill rated at 150 kg/hr, a water pump with a capacity of 1- 8 m3/hr, a battery charger, and provide electrical power for 135-180, 25 W light bulbs. Mounted on a steel chassis, it can power various agro-processing machines, such as a corn mill or oil press, and power tools such as saws and welders, thereby spurring small-scale industrial development.
The Programme has taken advantage of the traditional gender-based division of labor in which women perform the tasks of grinding, hulling, and collecting firewood and water, by requiring that the platform be owned and managed by women’s associations. Training is then provided in areas of literacy, book keeping, management and maintenance, resulting in women becoming energy entrepreneurs and selling energy to men. Women can also use the energy for income-generating activities, including oil extraction, production of food pastes and shea butter, and soap manufacturing.
Women have also saved between two and six hours of time per day, and the attendance and performance of school-age girls has increased since they no longer must stay at home as much to help their mothers. In 350 Malian villages with platforms, women’s average annual income has tripled from US$34 to US$101. Men benefit from the use of electricity for hand tools and creation of jobs as operators and repair artisans.

Lessons Learned

  • A minimum level of expected use is required to make investments affordable
  • Initial feasibility evaluations are needed to accurately assess the financial, economic, social and technical feasibility of installation, and develop village-specific methodologies
  • Institutional capacity must be strengthened to compensate for overall weakness of the financial system in rural areas
  • Capacity building is particularly needed regarding the ability to make decisions based on timely and accurate information, to implement those decisions, and to track progress on the expected results
  • Need to tighten up the legal framework in rural areas, where the concept of formal individual ownership is not the norm due to problems with banks requesting collateral for initial credit
  • Establishment of supply zones and replying to requests in geographically circumscribed areas, rather than those scattered over vast distances, reduces high transport and communication costs

Further Information


GTZ (2007): Eastern Africa Resource Base: GTZ Online Regional Energy Resource Base: Regional and Country Specific Energy Resource Database: VII - Best Practice Case Studies.