ECOVA MALI was founded in 2007 by Cynthia Hellmann and Gregory Flatt, both former Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Mali, as a grassroots alternative to the predominant top-down approach to development. Greg and Cynthia have fostered and maintained close ties to Mali for nearly 15 years and returned numerous times in various roles. They have seen that local experts can train fellow Malians far more effectively and at a much lower cost than western expats. They have also witnessed how relatively small amounts of money can work wonders in the hands of rural agricultural entrepreneurs. So they decided to create an organization founded upon the lessons learned from their observations and experience.
ECOVA MALI provides salaries to accomplished Malian farmers to train other farmers in sustainable agriculture techniques. ECOVA MALI also provides start-up capital in the form of micro-loans and mini-grants for the creation and development of worker-owned and managed, sustainable agricultural enterprises based on principles of environmental and social responsibility.
We are proud to say that Cindy, Greg, and ECOVA MALI are prominently featured in the new book of the NY Times Best-Selling Author, John Perkins, "The Secret History of the American Empire". ECOVA MALI was also recently part of a research project created through a collaboration between the Worldwatch Institute and Nourishting the Planet. There are links to a few short video clips from their visit to our training center on this site.
Greg was born and raised in Princeton, Massachusetts. From 1997 to 1999, he served in Peace Corps Mali as an Agriculture Extension Agent. Living and working in the small Bambara village of Niana-Sobala (population of 300), where the people practiced subsistence agriculture, was a life changing experience. He was struck by the friendliness, resourcefulness, incredible skills, and overwhelming hospitality of the Malian people. Greg has a Master's degree in Sustainable Development and a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology. He has experience as an agricultural consultant, organic farmer, Community Supported Agriculture specialist, teacher, non-profit director, translator / interpreter, Peace Corps Recruiter, carpenter, and location-fixer for documentary film in Mali. Greg, also a guitarist and singer, has become famous in Mali for his song “Sonsani Mara” (a song which promotes rabbit raising in the Bambara language) as well as for the songs on the album, "Zou et Moctar - LA SAUCE" which he recorded in 2000 with a dozen talented Malian musicians.
Cynthia Hellmann grew up in the Midwest but has spent the last decade in Vermont. She served in Peace Corps Mali from 1999-2001 as an Agriculture Extension Agent. While she lists community garden organizing as her primary project in her official Description of Service, her true project was becoming a trusted member of her village, learning a Malian language and becoming deeply immersed in the various cultures and peoples of Mali. She considers dispelling the myths of international development and the peoples of Africa her most important work as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Cindy has a Master's degree in Sustainable Development and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. She has experience as the director of a local food shelf and day shelter, an organic farmer, an agricultural consultant, a researcher, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) specialist, a public policy advocate, and a teacher. She has helped develop farmers' markets and community gardens, and is currently the Canvas Officer for Oxfam America in Boston. Cindy is also the creator of the blog "All Food Matters", which is dedicated to educating about food security/safety issues. She is also a talented singer and performs locally with many different musicians.
Madou is skilled farmer and exceptionally talented manager. He is from the Kangaba Region and also operates his own tile masonry business very successfully. Madou has coordinated all logistics and managment of the ECOVA MALI Training Center, staff, and outreach efforts since May, 2009.
Sedou Togola - Chief Grower, Groundskeeper, and Guardian
Moussa Keita - Training Center Operations Support and Local Liason
Komani Doumbia - Assistant Grower
Korotimi Togola - Cook, Grounds/Housekeeper
ECOVA MALI is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. As such, your financial contribution to ECOVA MALI is tax-deductible as a "charitable donation" when you file your annual tax return! You can either send us a check directly (made out to ECOVA MALI) to the address below, or you can make a secure online donation using Google Checkout.
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69 Cherry St.
Swampscott, MA 01907