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.