Africa RISING: Technology parks herald a new beginning in Mali’s farms
The Africa RISING project draws to a close in June 2022
On 11 and 12 November 2021, Africa RISING project partners, farmers and stakeholders in Mali convened at the technology parks in Bougouni and Koutiala regions for the last farmer’s field day of the project as it draws to a close in June this year. Technology parks within the project have introduced farming communities in southern Mali and beyond to numerous improved technologies and best practices for soil fertility management, including erosion control through contour bunding, improving fodder production for livestock feeding, and introducing new cereal, legumes, and vegetable crop varieties.
Dr Fred Kizito, the project’s Chief Scientist in West Africa, stated that the project has achieved its objectives. “We identified entry points for adoption of appropriate agronomic practices in farmers’ own environments. Not only did we introduce farmers to new technologies, we also facilitated access to input and output markets. These actions resulted in making a real difference in their livelihoods. This has also helped facilitate the scaling up of agricultural technologies, and the technology parks have been a platform for a dialogue between farmers and authorities.”
“Farmers were able to replicate some of the improved technologies and agronomic practices on their farmlands and have continued to spread them across different agro-ecologies and geographies,” said Dr Birhanu Zemadim Birhanu, the project’s National Coordinator in Mali. “These technology parks have created an enabling environment for the scaling up of technologies, benefiting thousands of farmers who made use of the knowledge to prevent degradation of their farmlands and to reduce soil erosion in the Africa RISING intervention villages.”
“It is important to secure the support and commitment of farmers and farming communities and to work closely with them. Express your idea and let members of the target community feed in their ideas,” were Dr Birhanu’s words of advice for replication.
Dr Akinseye Folorunso Matthew, an agronomist and agro-climatologist at ICRISAT, expressed pleasure over the impact of trials and demonstrations of soil fertilization strategies. “A cost-benefit analysis of the five fertilization strategies and two sorghum varieties we identified has shown that these strategies have the potential to greatly increase farmers’ productivity compared to their current practice,” he said.
“Before the project, we mainly used traditional seeds and farming practices inherited from our elders. We discovered improved varieties and hybrids of cereal crops such as sorghum and maize in the technology parks. Even on smaller plots of land we can now harvest better yields, thanks to agricultural production intensification techniques. Also, the new improved seeds available are better adapted than local seeds to our weather conditions,” said Mr Bassiriba Samaké, a farmer in the village of Diéba who participated in the technology park in Madina, Bougouni region.
“The new seeds we accessed are better adapted to cope with climate change. The lessons and knowledge gained have been very beneficial. I was able to teach these technologies to many other farmers who in turn created their own plots using improved technologies. I am happy I was able to create a technology park in my village. It inspires other farmers,” Mr Samaké added.
Mr Soumaila Diawara, a representative of the village chief of Madina, said, “During the dry season, the parks are used for market gardening with irrigation. Many young people in our community have earned up to 500,000 FCFA (about US$ 870) from dry season vegetable production, which in turn has kept the youth away from banditry. The women, who are heavily involved in gardening, have also earned considerable incomes and are able to contribute to household expenses.”
Mrs Fanta Dembele, a participant in the technology park in N’Golonianasso Koutiala region, seconded Mr Diawara. “I can pay for better clothes for my children. I can also pay for healthcare. Before starting in the technology park, I could not earn enough to consult a doctor.”
Mrs Nematou Togora, participant in the technology park located in the village of M’Pessoba, Koutiala region, said food security and nutrition were improved and the women have played an important role in this process. “Compared to men, women and children are considered more vulnerable, but at the same time they are pillars of the household,” she said.
“Malnutrition was severe in the community. At one point, older women were accused of causing illness among community members, especially among their grandchildren and daughters-in-law. Misconception about the causes of malnutrition and its effects prompted families and community members to reject elderly women. Within the parks, we understood the importance of both elderly and pregnant women eating healthy and balanced foods to keep mothers and their babies healthy. The mothers-in-law are now accepted in the community,” Mrs Togora further said.
Mr Karitié Coulibaly, chief of M’Pessoba village, said the technology park installed in the village will remain. “I am a member of a group of 53 village chiefs and will mobilize these leaders to create a synergy of action to perpetuate the achievements of the technology parks.”
“Just as we were able to assemble many producers in the technology parks to learn and share, we can also join forces to support the sustainability of these activities,” Mr Ousmane Dembele, Head of Program, Innovation and Applied Research at the NGO AMEDD, said while expressing confidence in the sustainability of the activities carried out.
Mr Seybou Diawara, Mayor of Madina, is thankful to the project’s partners who have trained farmers to improve their yields and expressed confidence in the project continuing to yield benefits in the long run. Mr Kalifa Coulibaly, Mayor of M’Pessoba Commune, sees the parks as harbingers of new technologies indispensable for food security.
“The improved and hybrid varieties promoted in the technology parks are useful for both human and animal consumption. The project has really contributed to the government’s efforts to achieve food and nutritional security,” outlines Mrs Traoré Aminata Sanogo, sub-Prefect of the rural commune of M’Pessoba.
Mr Hassane Tolo, Director General of the Agricultural Learning Center (CAA) of M’Pessoba (a center hosting 300 students) proposes transferring the technology park CAA. “All the technologies experienced in the Africa RISING project technology parks should be taught to our students in partnership with ICRISAT and IER. Though we have our own demonstration plots within the CAA center, the Africa RISING project technology parks are far much better.”
In response, Dr Bouba Traoré, knowledge broker in Africa RISING, said the project is in a process that will lead to the transfer of technology parks.
Project: Africa RISING- Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation
Funder: United States Agency for International Development as part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative through the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Partners: Institut d’Economie Rurale, The World Vegetable Center, International Livestock Research Institute, Wageningen University, Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security, International Food Policy Research Institute, ICRISAT, Africa RISING’s Large-scale Diffusion of Technologies for Sorghum and Millet Systems (ARDT-SMS), Fédération Nationale des Producteurs de l’Agriculture Biologique et Equitable du Mali (FENABE) and Association Malienne d’éveil au Développement Durable (AMEDD),The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
About the Africa RISING MALI
Africa RISING Mali is one of the three regional USAID-funded Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING) projects operating in Mali under the name Sustainable Intensification of Key Farming Systems in the Sudano-Guinea Zone of Mali. The project aims at providing pathways out of hunger and poverty for smallholder families through sustainably intensified farming systems that sufficiently improve food, nutrition, and income security, particularly for women and children, and conserve or enhance the natural resource base. In Mali, the project is managed by ICRISAT, and implemented by multi-stakeholder research-for-development platforms comprising of international and national research and development partners from the public and private sectors, farmers’ interest groups, service providers and market actors.
Building on current and developing more functioning partnerships between R&D, and scaling partners, the technologies co-validated and implemented in nine villages and four technology parks of southern Mali were scaled out to the different agroecologies of the country and benefitted over 19,401 direct and 85, 964 indirect households between 2015-2021. In 2021, the total number of Malian households benefitted directly through the research process were 4,910. On the other hand, 22, 952 households were exposed to Africa RISING technologies through partnership with development and scaling partners.