Farmers witnessing a crop demonstration in an Africa RISING Tech Park in Bougouni, Mali. Photo: ICRISAT
22
Feb

Mali’s Tech Parks are equipping farmers with science to battle agrarian crises

Farmers witnessing a crop demonstration in an Africa RISING Tech Park in Bougouni, Mali. Photo: ICRISAT

Farmers witnessing a crop demonstration in an Africa RISING Tech Park in Bougouni, Mali. Photo: ICRISAT

Farmer Fousseini Samake nearly gave up agriculture for a job in the city. Four years ago, he was set back by aging seed varieties and drought with pest and diseases eating into the meager harvest.

Cut to 2018, Samake is a name to reckon with in the farming community of Mali’s Bougouni district. Not only did he turn his fortunes around with multifold increase in agriculture yield, he also helped half a dozen farmers better their lives. With a mission to help farmers beat the odds, he directs them to science-based farming at Tech Parks — large tracts of agricultural land set up under the project ‘Africa RISING’ (Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation).

Use of soil moisture measurement device being shown to farmers in Bougouni. Photo: ICRISAT

Use of soil moisture measurement device being shown to farmers in Bougouni. Photo: ICRISAT

“The grains of Soubatimi are bigger than the local varieties and the cattle seem to enjoy the stover more. It also gives better yield than the local variety,” the farmer hailing from Flola Village in Bougouni said while talking about the sorghum variety made available at the parks. “A farmer is guaranteed a harvest of 500 kg each from a quarter hectare of Soubatimi cultivation when compared to only 200 kg if the local variety is grown over the same area.”

Farmers from the villages of Flola and Madina were also introduced to drought-tolerant and early-maturing groundnut varieties. Intercropping agronomy practices were demonstrated at the parks to combat droughts, flooding, erosion and loss of fertility.

“My farm was affected by erosion in 2014. Subsequently, the production dipped so low that I used to get less than 400 kg of sorghum per hectare in a season. Contour bunding with fast growing tree species helped control runoff and enhanced soil fertility. My yield increased to 1,600 kg per hectare,” farmer Mamadou Berthe says.

Surge in production, increased availability of food for consumption and sale are among the many benefits of Africa RISING, explains Dr Birhanu Zemadim Birhanu, a Senior Scientist at ICRISAT and the project’s coordinator in Mali. As more farmers learnt about these technologies the demand from the farming communities increased.

“Driven by farmers’ interest, Africa RISING will continue testing and validating more technologies in collaboration with other projects that meet demands of rural communities. In October 2018, a project by CARE Mali International and ICRISAT began implementing Africa RISING validated technologies in the Mopti region,” he says.

More than 3,500 farmers have come out of poverty and hunger since the implementation of Africa RISING technologies in Mali. The project also spurred similar initiatives by USAID in Mopti region, where four parks were set up to target 10,000 farmers.

Africa RISING’s Tech Parks were developed with funding assistance from USAID through the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the CGIAR Research Program – Water, Land and Ecosystem (WLE).

Partners include Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), The World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Wageningen University, CRP- Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Association Malienne d’Eveil au Développement Durable (AMEDD) and Cooperatives of the Mouvement Biologique du Mali (FENABI).

About the authors:

Dr Birhanu Zemadim Birhanu
Senior Scientist Land and Water Management (WCA)
West & Central Africa Program

Rohit Pillandi
Senior Communication Officer

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