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Poverty and Climate Change
– main challenges

 

Mali’s National Director of Agriculture speaking to a local group of women farmers

 

 

 

Agriculture dominates Mali’s economy, and the Government of Mali sees it as the engine of rural development, poverty reduction and growth. As of 2009, Mali exceeded its expressed commitment in the Maputo Declaration to spend over 10% of its budget on agriculture; Mali actually spent at least 12% of the national budget on agriculture (FAO, 2013). Drought remains a threat to food production and nutritional security in the country. Mali’s agriculture is dependent on rain but rainfall has been erratic over the last decade, hampering economic growth by an estimated 29% (Butt, Mc Carl, Kergna, 2006).

 

Economic growth in Mali has averaged 5% for the period 1996-2007 (CIA, World fact book, 2008). However poverty levels have not been reduced to the extent expected and income inequality between the rural and urban areas has increased. Agricultural production in Mali involves subsistence oriented and rain-fed production of millet and sorghum as well as commercially oriented production of cotton and rice. Most of the investment in Malian agriculture has been allocated to cotton and rice production while much less emphasis has been given to the development of dry land crops, such as pearl millet, sorghum and cowpea. This has resulted in an increase in yield for commercial crops but no increase in the yields of major cereal crops, millet and sorghum, for the last 40 years.

 

Fighting poverty and the negative impacts of climate change are therefore the main challenges for agricultural and economic growth in Mali. Successful agricultural research projects have made available climate change adaptation and mitigation technologies, such as drought resistant crop varieties, improved fertilizer application methods (micro-dosing, fertilizer point or deep placement), green water harvesting techniques, and soil and water conservation practices (contour lining, stone lining, terracing, grass strips etc.) and crop management practices (line planting ridging etc.).

 

The Sasakawa Africa Association, through its country program, SG 2000-Mali, promotes agricultural extension services in Mali in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The country’s agricultural extension services are characterized by the presence of several public andprivate partners, where the role of associations (farmers’ organizations, associations of producers, and cooperatives) is essential.

 

The main objective is to engage the local extension services in disseminating climate-smart agricultural practices, while mitigating natural disasters such as recurrent floods and/or droughts and associated crop failure or decrease in yields, to which resource-poor farmers are often more exposed and almost always more vulnerable. Already this partnership has brought changes in enhancing production yields through the introduction of improved crop varieties, micro-dose fertilizer application, and good soil and water management practices.

 

 

Working with our partners

An essential feature of SAA’s program in Mali has been the development and implementation of collaborative projects with several partners including the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), USAID, World Food Program (WFP), and the Royal Dutch Embassy in Mali.

 

The use of mineral fertilizers and improved crop varieties by smallholder farm families is limited by the availability, or access to, financial resources. Most farmers are not able to afford the cost of fertilizers recommended by the research organizations. The AGRA-funded micro-dose collaborative project, implemented by SAA, was aimed at improving the use of mineral fertilizers by smallholder farmers. From 2010 to 2013, 77 villages and 31 farmer-based organizations (FBOs) participated in micro-dose fertilizer demonstrations. Thirty-seven extension agents were trained as trainers and supported, in turn, the training of 3,744 farmers. The practice of microdosing fertilizer was applied to 3,700 hectares and contributed to the marketing of a surplus production of 427.9 tons of staple grains.