Improving Farmer Capacity in Mali

PCD with women smallholder farmers who were recently trained

As part of support to the Government of Mali to measure the impact of its Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme, Imperial College London’s Partnership for Child Development (PCD) is training agricultural and extension agents to increase smallholder farmer profits and access to markets in Mali’s Kayes and Mopti regions.  
On a trip to assess the early effects of the training across four villages in Mopti, PCD found that the trained farmers, the majority of who were women, have significantly increased their yields and are producing cereal (millet) varieties with higher returns than their regular local varieties.
Training Themes 
From June - December 2014 the training has been supported 610 farmes across 29 villages and in addition to promoting the use of millet varieties with higher returns they have focused on better organising the farmers so that collectively they can purchase larger quantities at cheaper rates. Other lessons focused on:
• Advanced production techniques (e.g. seed-lining, weeding, efficient use of fertilizers and setting up picket plots)
• Understanding and following crop planting schedules throughout the year (given that Mali as a country part of the Sahel region experiences poor and unpredictable rainfall)
• Environmental lessons (e.g. anti-erosive treatments, sensitization on setbacks related to pesticides, herbicides and basic set up of agro-ecosystems)
Overcoming Challenges 
Despite the marked increase in produce and better farmer coordination, farmers have outlined a number of concerns to PCD; such as sensitization on the value of using profitable cereal varieties rather than local cereals which are often preferred due to cultural reasons, farmers also outlined they often don't adopt improved varieties because they are more labour intensive.
To address these issues PCD will continue to support sensitization training on the potential benefits of using different cereals as well as promoting market opportunities. Other training themes will also focus on post-harvest activities including:
Learning Together
To create and strengthen the linkages between local agriculture and schools, PCD and the Ministry of Agriculture also plan on facilitating exchange workshop between smallholder farmers, mayors and school management committees in both Mopti and Kayes regions. These sessions will outline procurement regulations and standards and will hear stakeholders outline their roles and experiences, so that together they can work in better partnership.