Improving food security and resilience and initiating market-oriented development for smallholder farmers
ICRISAT works with Mali's main agricultural research institutes such as the Institut d’ Economie Rurale (IER) in improving the productivity and resilience of smallholder agriculture in the climate risky Sahelian and Sudanian zones. Apart from the development and large-scale dissemination of improved varieties of pearl millet, sorghum and groundnut , ICRISAT also focuses on better soil fertility management, productive and nutritive crop-tree farming systems, safer and inclusive crop value chain options, as well as approaches to improve family nutrition and women’s status in agriculture.
Developing and disseminating improved varieties of key staple crops: In Mali, farmer seed producers and cooperatives are the major sources of improved seed being marketed by emerging private seed companies. Improving their capacity is key to meeting local demand. In 2012, 70 tons of improved sorghum seeds were produced by local seed companies while the demand is over 500 tons (only 20% of total sorghum area is cultivated). Farmer participatory sorghum and pearl millet breeding in the Sikasso and Mopti regions aims at improving access to better seeds such as sorghum hybrids with 30% higher yields than the best traditional varieties.
Promoting diversification and better farming practices: Crop diversification [ref CODE-WA project] improves farm resilience and productivity. As a response to low soil fertility, limited access to fertilizers and difficult climatic conditions in the Sahel, a lot of effort has been put into developing appropriate fertilizer technologies such as fertilizer microdosing, the manual application of a sma ll quantity of fertilizer into planting holes which improves yields, productivity and incomes. Mechanized application using an innovative combination of planter and disk which enable seeds and fertilizer to be sown at the same time has also been developed to work six times faster than the manual method. The use of locally sourced phosphate rock is also an interesting fertilization option for Malian farmers.
Under Africa Rising, several options for biological intensification are being tested, such as cowpea intensification, "food banks" with nutritious and resilient Moringa and Baobab, sorghum hybrid intensification, groundnut aflatoxin management, a mechanized microdosing trial with hybrid sorghum and a local fruit tree establishment trial.
But what drives the adoption of such agricultural innovations? A study in the Office de la Haute Vallée du Niger shows that policies that improve farmers’ education and facilitate access to credit to purchase agricultural equipment catalyze the adoption of soil and water conservation practices.