A photo taken of UNDP administrator Helen Clark on May 2nd, 2010, in Timbuktu, Mali. AFP PHOTO / HABIB KOUYATE.UNDP Administrator Helen Clark wrapped up her Mali visit today where she underscored the country’s progress on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)...The first UNDP Chief to travel to Mali, Helen Clark highlighted the country’s efforts in tackling issues such as HIV/AIDS, poverty, education and its commitment to democratic governance...The Administrator started out in the legendary city of Timbuktu, where she and the Head of UNAIDS, Michele Sidibé, spoke with the beneficiaries of an HIV/AIDS clinic...Mali has been making important headway in tackling the HIV/AIDS pandemic, having reduced national prevalence from 1.7% in 2001 to 1.3% in 2006 and dramatically expanding universal access to HIV services...The Administrator then visited the city’s historic mosques and toured the library that houses its medieval manuscripts. Timbuktu has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988...On the outskirts of Bamako, Miss Clark visited an all-women mango cooperative which works to give women farmers the right skills to grow and treat their produce for export. Each of the farmers in this UNDP project, aimed at poverty alleviation, handled about 35 tonnes of mangos for the export market. Thanks to the project, Mali’s mango exports have risen sharply, from 2,915 tons in 2005 to 12,676 tonnes in 2008...“These types of aid for trade initiatives help empower women, boost family income, and even help ensure their children got to school. Everyone gains,” the Administrator said, adding that “Mali truly has the opportunity to become the breadbasket for the region.”..Today, she also praised Mali’s democratic advances in discussions with President Amadoun Toumani Touré, Prime Minister Modibo Sidibé, Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane and other senior Malian officials...Helen Clark discussed a range of additional development issues with the President, including the key role of agriculture for Mali, the importance of tackling the climate challenge, and the importance of advancing the status and influence of women...“We also agreed on the importance of promoting development in the north as the medium and long term answer to the challenges there,” the Administrator said...On climate change, UNDP and the Global Environment Facility will be developing a US$2,340,000 project to bolster the climate resilience of the agricultural sector in Mali...The Administrator also reiterated the importance of empowering women to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, describing “economic empowerment, access to legal rights, including inheritance rights, and participation in decisionmaking” as key steps toward achieving women’s empowerment...From Mali, Miss Clark heads to Burkina Faso, Tanzania and finally South Africa.