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Mali is one of the world's poorest countries, ranking 175th out of 177 countries in the United Nations Development Program's 2006 Human Development Index. More than 73 percent of the country's rural people live below the poverty line.

Over the past decade trends have shown a shift in the geographical distribution of poverty. The rural inhabitants of the Sahelian and Sahelo-Saharan areas are predominantly farmers and agro-pastoralists who practice dry land subsistence farming to feed their households. They are Mali's poorest people, with the poorest living conditions (nutrition, education and health) and potential (access to land, equipment, credit and employment).

In recent years monetary poverty has increased among rural people in what were once the country's most prosperous areas. These include the so-called cotton belt and the Office du Niger, where the public sector has invested significantly in hydroagricultural development. The increase in monetary poverty is mainly the result of the sharp drop in world cotton prices and the loss of competitivity of locally produced rice against imported rice. Furthermore, the agricultural sector is subject to unexpected changes in climate. Agriculture has suffered significantly because of low rainfall, which affects production levels and deepens the vulnerability of the rural population.

Among the factors that contribute to rural poverty are inadequate and costly basic social services, rural isolation, the cost of energy and a weak information and communication network. Source: International Fund for Agricultural Development)

Malian Geography and People

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Sanambele Village Sanambele Village