Improved varieties sow a better future in Mali’s groundnut hubs
Improved varieties are helping increase groundnut production, farm incomes, improving lives and empowering women in Mali’s major groundnut producing hubs of Kayes and Sikasso, where lack of access to such varieties had contributed to low yields of less than 1 ton/ha, well below the global average of 1.6 ton/ha.
Over the last three years, ICRISAT has been coordinating the Upscaling improved groundnut varieties through integrated seed systems for improving income and nutrition in dryland Ghana and Mali Project, which is funded by NWO-WOTRO. “By improving the groundnut seed systems to scale up production of improved groundnut varieties, we hope to enhance incomes and nutrition of women and men smallholder farmers in the drylands of Ghana and Mali,” said Dr Haile Desmae, the Project Coordinator and groundnut breeder at ICRISAT-WCA (West and Central Africa).
In Mali, groundnut is grown for both household consumption and sale, accounting for roughly half of a rural household’s cash income. The project has been looking into seed production and marketing models as well as promoting improved varieties with optimal cultural practices while improving farmers’ and seed actors’ knowledge and skills. The efforts translated into outcomes through public-private partnerships to boost early-generation seed production, demonstrations of improved varieties in farmers’ fields and field days to raise awareness, sensitize and demonstrate mini-mechanization equipment for groundnut planting, harvesting and threshing. Most importantly, it also involved training farmers and seed producers in best production practices.
Based on data from the first two years of the project, the effort has reached 1,586 farmers (984 women and 602 men) through demonstrations and field day visits.
“Before the project arrived, farmers in Sikasso region were unfamiliar with improved groundnut varieties,” stated Dr Dramane Sako, Groundnut Breeder at IER, Kayes. Dr Sako emphasized this is a significant step forward for the Mali’s national groundnut program. Farmers in Sikasso grow groundnut predominantly for sale. For fresh pod sales, they choose local varieties. Growing groundnut provides a significant market opportunity for farmers to generate some money, especially for women, in a region regarded as the main producer of rice and maize for home consumption. The groundnut market in Sikasso mostly sees trade of fresh pods, of the Valencia types with 3 or 4 seeds per pod, for consumption.
“Though our improved varieties are Spanish types, usually with two seeds per pod, they have proven attractive to farmers and are finding more takers,”
Dr Sako further said.
Yiriwatiga and Nietatiga, which were widely disseminated and preferred by farmers in Sikasso, are two improved groundnut varieties with a yield of 2 t/ha in farmers’ field compared to 1 t/ha for local varieties. These improved varieties also produce a large amount of fodder, which appeals to women farmers who raise livestock. For example, Yiriwatiga was preferred by 66% of the participants in a field day in October 2020 at Kamale Sirakoro in Sikasso. Women farmers from the Badenya Cooperative in Lamine Bambala village, about 10 kilometers from Sikasso, fully adopted Nietatiga three years ago.
“We were able to save enough money to start a new business with the profits from the sale of the annual harvest of improved varieties. We purchased chairs, tarpaulins, plates and pots that we now rent out to the villagers during social ceremonies. We made 350,000 FCFA (about 630 USD) last year,” said Ms Diarata Ouattara, the cooperative’s President.
“We made more money from selling the improved variety grain as it yields more than local varieties even if it only has two seeds per pod,” added Ms Acheta Berthé, a cooperative member.
In Kayes, the variety Allason was preferred the most by about 53% of the participants who hosted demonstrations and attended field days in October 2020. In addition to the grain yield about 2t/ha in farmers’ fields, several farmer groups in the Kayes region benefit each year from the sale of Allason fodder, which covers a significant cost of the field activity.
“About 40 farmers in the communes of Kolokani and Liberté Dembaya, for instance, are able to earn between 150,000 and 200,000 FCFA (US$ 270 to 360) every year from selling groundnut fodder. This money assists them in purchasing seeds and other agricultural equipment for the coming season,” Dr Sako said.
The benefits of improved varieties have improved the livelihood of some farmers like Sekou Diarra from Kolokani village. Seed producer of improved groundnut varieties, he began producing Allason three years ago.
“It is one of the few varieties that can adapt to our climatic conditions,” Mr Diarra said. “In 2019 and 2020, I harvested 1 and 2 tons from 1 and 2 hectares, respectively. I sold every kilo for 900 FCFA (US$ 1.60). I built a new home in 2019 and paid off a 150,000 FCFA (US$ 272) debt. In 2020, I bought an ox for plowing at 200,000 FCFA (US$ 360). Thanks to the sale of my groundnut fodder, I saved about 150,000 FCFA (US$ 270) for home and in this year’s field expenses.”
Kayes’ local varieties only yield between 700-850 kg and are vulnerable to the early leaf spot disease, and are often affected by drought. With drought tolerance and early maturity, Allason has become very popular in the region after it was widely disseminated through the innovation platforms in the area involving different actors of the value chain.
“Three years ago, we knew nothing about improved groundnut seed. Thanks to the training sessions offered by the project team and local trainers, we produce and sell every year our seed harvest,” said Mrs Bougouri Sidibé, a woman from Dôgôfili village.
The women of the village have formed a cooperative to invest their profits in the purchase of agricultural equipment and domestic animals. “Since 2019, I was able to save about 50,000 to 75,000 FCFA (US$ 90 to 135). Today, I own several sheep and goats that I bought with the profit from selling improved groundnut seed,” explained Ms Diarré Traoré, President of the Dôgôfili Seed Cooperative.
The project has lobbied for easy access of women to cultivable land. “Kayes has witnessed a significant shift in attitudes around women’s access to land. Women can now grow groundnut on 1 hectare of land with the help of their husbands. In the past, this would not have been conceivable,” Dr Sako explained.
Strong collaboration between national partners and farmer organizations, with IER leading the process, as well as partnerships with ICRISAT, KIT and the Société de Production de Semences (SOPROSA-Mali) resulted in WOTRO creating significant impact. The results of the activities of the project’s third year will soon be available.
Reported by Moussa Magassa
Communications Executive, ICRISAT-WCA
Project: Upscaling improved groundnut varieties through integrated seed systems for improving income and nutrition in dryland Ghana and Mali
Funder: NWO WOTRO
Partners: ICRISAT, IER, KIT and the Société de Production de Semences (SOPROSA-Mali), farmer organizations
CRP: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC)