Farmers using their mobile phones to avail climate information and agro-advisories. A screengrab of weather information (inset).

Farmers in southern Mali dial ‘S’ for success

Sènèkèla/Sandji mobile-based services make climate and agro-advisory information available to farmers under the CSAT project to significantly aid crucial on-farm decisions so that smallholders get more from their farms.

Farmers using their mobile phones to avail climate information and agro-advisories. A screengrab of weather information (inset).

Farmers using their mobile phones to avail climate information and agro-advisories. A screengrab of weather information (inset).

A group of farmers in Mali’s Sikasso region swear by mobile-based services that aid in making crucial decisions on the farm. Providing timely weather forecasts and advice regarding all thing’s agriculture, the services by Orange Mali, a leading telecom services provider in Mali, has helped the group reduce costs, avoid crop loss and save time in farming.

“In August, I noticed that my maize plot had been attacked by insects. I called the Sénèkèla call center, which advised me in the use of phytosanitary products and I was able to treat my plot effectively,” says Mr Seydou Koné, a farmer in the village of Senina.  Sènèkèla/Sandji are the services.

In June 2021, 100 smallholder farmers in Sikasso and Kadiolo were introduced to the Sènèkèla/Sandji platform that sends out weather forecasts as messages to the farmers (Sandji) and offers agriculture advice through a call center (Sènèkèla). Agronomists at the Sènèkèla call center provided advice in several local languages regarding cultivation methods, seeds and sowing times, while Sandji sends out accurate, reliable and localized weather forecasts for a radius of 3 km in French and Bambara.

Before Sènèkèla/Sandji, farmers accessed weather forecasts on national radio and television. These forecasts lack relevance as they are not localized. For advice, the farmers relied on the government’s extension agents, who cannot cater to farmers everywhere.

Under the Climate Smart Agricultural Technologies for Improved Rural Livelihoods and Food Security in Mali (CSAT-Mali) project, ICRISAT supports use of weather forecasting to give farmers access to information relevant for deciding optimal planting and weeding time and fertilizer application practices. ICRISAT has improved access to seasonal forecasting and has trained farmers at the onset of the growing season in the use of climate and agro-advisory digital information services and monitored them through the season.

Throughout the growing season from June to October 2021, the mobile-based services by Orange Mali have aided farmers in sowing, spreading, tilling, phytosanitary treatment and harvesting. A monitoring exercise in July, August and September 2021 saw farmers reporting a drop in production costs by 30.6%, a significant reduction as inputs are very expensive in the market. The reduction in costs resulted from increased efficiency in the use of inputs; farmers used less agricultural inputs because they paid more attention to forecasts before making decisions.

“Now with Sandji, I can better plan my activities according to rainy events. I have spent less on inputs and have seen an increase in the yield of crops already harvested such as maize, groundnuts and beans,” says Mr Souleymane Djourté, a farmer from Nierouni village.

Thanks to the forecasts, about 60% of the producers reported saving time by not having to repeat certain tasks (sowing, weeding, and crop treatment). Twenty-nine percent of the producers perceived that they avoided losing or damaging their crops after using the service and women benefited doubly. “Sandji has helped me a lot in my household chores. I can better plan certain activities such as washing and drying food, thanks to my phone. I share information with other members of my family who come to me for information,” says Ms Aminata Sangaré, a farmer from the Ifola village.

The Sénékèla call center, through its agricultural advisories, helped 31% of the producers to choose seed varieties and phytosanitary products to be used in their plots.

With the forecasts having a high accuracy (71%), the perception study done among producers also indicates that 86% of users are satisfied with the services, particularly with the use of the SMS-Sandji service for disseminating weather information.

Project: Climate Smart Agricultural Technologies for improved rural livelihoods and food security in Mali (CSAT-Mali)
Funder: The Norwegian Embassy in Mali and Niger

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