Mali has a rich biological heritage characterized by a diversity of forest, wildlife, aquatic species, and ecosystems that serve as a reservoir for the survival and development of resources that constitute an important source of medicine, food and nutrition, oils, foliage, nuts and spices, which are major components of the diet in Mali. Biomass, both tree and herb, provides fuelwood for domestic use and livestock feed, and is an important source of supplementary income, especially during pre-harvest lean periods and drought. Non-timber agroforestry products not only intervene in household consumption by providing all the needs in vitamins, minerals but also contribute greatly in the generation of income [1].

Mali currently has a network of 27 Protected Areas covering an area of ​​9,010,757 ha [2].

The flora presents a wide variety of species. 1739 spontaneous species have been counted and are distributed among 687 genera from 155 families (Boudet and Lebrun, 1986) of which eight species are endemic (Boudet and Lebrun, 1986). These are the Maerua de waillyi, Elatine fauquei, Pteleopsis habeensis, Hibiscus pseudohirtus, Acridocarpus monodii, Gilletiodendron glandulosum, Brachystelma medusanthemum, Pandanus raynalii. Moreover, one local species has been added to the IUCN Red List: the Dalbergia melanoxylon. Four local species are classified as vulnerable: Afzelia africana, Khaya senegalensis, Pavetta lasioclada, Gilletiodendron glandulosum; and two species are classified as endangered: Vepris heterophylla, Pteleopsis habeensis [2].

The fauna of the country is extremely diverse and is living a decreasing trend. According to the IUCN Red List, Mali's endangered mammal species are: the Dama gazelle (critically endangered), the chimpanzee, and the wild dog. The vulnerable species are: Cheetah, the Barbary sheep, the Dorcas gazelle, the hippopotamus, the elephant and the manatee [2].

Unfortunately, this heritage is threatened by human activities and climatic hazards. Notably, water deficits have led to a reduction in primary production, a change in the structure of the plant cover as a result of the disappearance of non-resistant species, and a massive reduction in wildlife deprived of its habitat as well as in livestock [1].

The immediate consequence is the loss in quantity and quality of soil and subsoil biodiversity, including the loss of globally important services such as carbon sequestration, sequestration, and genetic information. This has led to a rapid change in ecological services, which are of paramount importance at the local level, contributing to watershed protection, microclimatic improvement, soil conservation, nutrients, woody and non-woody agroforestry production causing a significant and continuous decline in the level of satisfaction of the populations' food, nutritional, health and income needs. These phenomena take place in parallel with the disappearance of local knowledge and the expertise of indigenous communities to better manage, regenerate and use these systems. The decline in biodiversity capital as well as the predominance of old trees (lack of regeneration) results in the decline and disappearance of agroforestry species of great need and current use at the local level [1].


The overall causes of the loss of ecological balance in Mali include biophysical (natural) and human-induced factors. The biophysical factors entail the following:  a harsh climate, with higher temperatures, low and erratic rainfall, long periods of drought, and decreasing soil fertility. The  human-induced pressures include factors such as overexploitation and mismanagement of resources due to high growth of a poverty-stricken population, rapid increase in livestock numbers relative to available resources, clearing, overgrazing, poaching, illegal fishing, bush fires, chemical pest and anti-bird control, use of pesticides.

Five direct threats to biodiversity have been identified entailing: climate change, agriculture, urban sprawl and the resulting loss of natural habitat, bushfires, and uncontrolled exploitation of wood for energy. Indirect threats include changes in human demography, economic activity and technology, as well as socio-political and cultural factors [1].

Bush fires ravage forests and pastures every year, particularly in the Savannah region and Niger Delta. In the South-Sahelian region, they destroy the herbaceous forage composed mainly of annual species, thus depriving livestock of grazing. The stands of certain species have regressed in Mali because of bush fires and are thus confined to places that are protected from fire [1].



Key policies and governance approach

Mali has signed and ratified several international conventions contributing to the conservation of natural and biological resources, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Algiers Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification [3]. The implementation of these international instruments has resulted in several actions, that contribute to the preservation of biological diversity in Mali. Notably, to overcome all the threats (natural and human) that continue to weigh on biodiversity, the 10th Conference of the parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological diversity adopted the 2011-2020 strategic plan with objectives called “Aichi objectives” while inviting the various countries to update their national strategy and plan. The measures taken to support this national strategy should in principle facilitate the achievement of national objectives [3].

In addition, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) came into force in Mali in 1994.  Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species [4].

At the national level, a national biosafety framework, a law on biotechnology and a National Biosafety Committee have been established. The country also adopted the Agricultural Guidelines Law in 2006 [5].

Biodiversity has also been integrated in actions for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, Strategic Framework for Growth and Poverty Reduction, National Climate Change Policy (pending adoption), as well as in sectoral development policies and strategies (fishing, farming, forestry, protected areas) [5].


SUccesses and remaining challenges

The country's national laws have been analyzed by the CITES Secretariat in relation to four minimum requirements: 1) to designate at least one Management Authority and one Scientific Authority; 2) to prohibit trade in specimens in violation of the Convention; 3) to penalize such trade; and 4) to confiscate illegally traded or possessed specimens [3].

In this regard, a recent study conducted in 2020, indicated that Mali is currently listed in Category 2 of National legislation, indicating that only one to three of the four condition stated in the study s are being met. The draft analysis by CITES Secretariat indicates some gaps in the legislation that needs to be addressed. An important next step to address the gaps would be an agreement between Mali and the Secretariat on a revised legislative analysis, including confiscate illegally traded or possessed specimens for a possible Category 1 classification [4]


Initiatives and Development Plans

Mali ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity on 29 March 1995 and started developing its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (SNPA/DB) in 2001. This SNPA/DB integrates all aspects of the concept of biological diversity: diversity of species and breeds, plant and animal genetic potential, and diversity of ecosystems. It provides an opportunity to take stock of the situation in terms of natural resources, ecosystems and policies applied in these areas.

Mali’s SNPA/DB was revised in 2014 in order to take into account the global framework and emphasize biodiversity conservation as a development concept. It contains five strategic directions: i) integrate biodiversity conservation in government and civil society actions to manage the underlying causes of biodiversity loss; ii) reduce direct pressures on biodiversity and encourage sustainable use; iii) improve biodiversity status by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity; iv) reinforce the advantages for all derived from biodiversity and the services provided by ecosystems; and v) reinforce implementation by means of participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity reinforcement [4].


Goals and Ambitions

The overall objective of the Mali’s 2014 revised SNPA/DB is to mainstream the conservation of biological diversity in government actions and those of the society to address the underlying causes of loss of biological diversity [3]



  • The knowledge and protection of the diversity of ecosystems, living species and their genetic characteristics are very important for the sustainable development of Mali. They contribute to poverty reduction through food security, improved health, income generation, reduction of vulnerability and maintenance of ecosystem balance.
  • Mali is an important center of domestication of several species of cultivated plants. Several of the species in Mali have biotechnological potential. These include the small seed grass Millet, which show resistance against attacks by granivorous birds. Additionally, species include stem borers and mildew.  Striga and drought are the two major constraints that sorghum farmers are struggling to cope with. Other species with biotechnological potential include cultivated rice of African origin (Oryza glaberrima) and some local varieties of cotton which can be used to improve the quantity and quality of production and reduce the use of pesticides.