Hi Boulabassi! Who are you and where do you come from?

My name is Boulabassi Coumaré and I come from Mali. I was born in King in the rural commune of Falo, about 200 km east of Bamako At the age of seven, I moved away from my parents to attend public school in the town of Falo, where I lived with my maternal grandfather.

What was your Dream Job as a child?

During my childhood, I dreamed of becoming an economist. After completing my baccalaureate in humanities sciences, I wanted to continue my studies at the Faculty of Law and Economic, specializing in economics. Unfortunately, this decision coincided with some reforms in Mali’s higher education system. These reforms excluded graduates in humanities from continuing their studies in economics at the Faculty of Law and Economics. My dream of becoming an economist was over, and I had to make another choice. I decided to study Socio-Anthropology with the aim of putting myself at the service of community development.

In which year did you start working for VSF-Suisse?

I first started working at CAB Demeso, a Malian NGO and partner of VSF-Suisse since 2005. My task was to support organizations of milk producers in Mali that were concerned with adding value to local milk. This was done as part of two projects implemented by CAB Demeso under the supervision of VSF-Suisse. In 2016, VSF-Suisse opened the Mali Country Office and was mandated to implement was the Livestock Sector Support Program in Mali, a project funded by the SDC. To strengthen the team, I therefore joined VSF-Suisse in 2017 as an expert consultant for dairy value chains.

What is your current role?

I am still a consultant for the dairy industry in various projects. I coordinate the collaboration of relevant actors in the sector. I also carry out field studies in close collaboration with technical services and milk producers, as well as rapid market studies and stakeholder analyses. My aim is to identify the necessary measures for the full participation of actors in the collection, processing, distribution, and marketing of local milk and the sustainable management of relevant infrastructure and equipment. I also facilitate exchanges between stakeholders (administrative and traditional authorities, municipalities, producer organizations, and private operators) to reach agreements that are essential for the creation of a system for valuing local milk and for income-generating measures. I specifically focus on improving the economic empowerment and social status of women and youth by supporting them to organize themselves in cooperatives. I also strengthen the skills of stakeholders in dairy processing techniques and in hygiene and milk quality. Since January 2023, I have also been responsible for project partnerships in close consultation with our Country Director Salomon Nikiéma.

Which part of your work do you like the most?

Strengthening the skills of people along the dairy value chain so they are more competitive in the market and their living conditions improve.

What are the biggest challenges in your work?

  • Organizing and structuring actors in the dairy industry into cooperatives to achieve a better appreciation of local milk.
  • Ensuring the economic viability of the production, transformation and marketing infrastructure and equipment for local milk.
  • Ensuring self-sufficiency in milk and dairy products for pastoralist and agropastoralist families, as well as the entire community.
  • Producing local milk and dairy products that meet standard hygiene and quality requirements to facilitate job creation and opportunities for local dairy industry.

What is one memory of your work that you will never forget?

In a joint operation with different, sometimes opposing interest groups, we were able to rescue infrastructure and equipment from a conflict zone.

What do you think is different about VSF-Suisse’s work compared to other organizations or actors?

Empowering individuals and project participants is an intervention strategy that ensures the sustainability of our interventions.

What is your passion outside of work or your hobbies?

Sports and livestock farming.

Is there anything you would like to share?

Today, our country is living in a context of conflict that requires humanitarian interventions. In my opinion, for these interventions to be effective, they need to be adapted to the needs of the population by combining humanitarian aid, peacebuilding, and sustainable development. This is the NEXUS approach we pursue at VSF-Suisse!

Thank you for your engagement, Boulabassi!

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