Transforming Agricultural Production.
In Mali, Fijishi is helping Food Producers Take Charge to Reduce Poverty and Malnutrition.
To increase farmers’ productivity, boost incomes, strengthen resilience, and improve nutrition in the Sikasso region of Mali by providing access to better-quality tools, technologies, and farming practices.
Using a farmer-centric approach, the activity aims to:
- Strengthen existing farmer cooperatives to deliver inclusive, diversified extension and advisory services, as well as nutrition advisory services
- Increase and sustain adoption of climate-smart agriculture technologies and practices Enable farmers to make more informed decisions through the creation of digital, field-based solutions
By the end of the activity, the expected impact includes:
- 30% increase in crop yields and $75 million increase in farmers’ sales
- 80,000 hectares farmed under improved, climate-smart agriculture practices or technologies
- 90% of farmer cooperative members reporting that children and women in their households consume nutrient-dense foods
- 58,000 farmers using data to inform production decisions
How can a region at once be a commercial agricultural hub—with fertile lands—and yet also be home to a population suffering from extreme poverty and chronic malnutrition?
This is the reality in Sikasso, in southern Mali, where rural poverty is the highest in the country (68%) and over a quarter of children 6 years of age and younger experience chronic malnutrition.
One reason for this so-called “Sikasso Paradox” is that production is largely dominated by cotton and low-nutrition cereals (including rice, millet, sorghum, and wheat) while agricultural sub-sectors, such as shea butter, mangoes, peanuts, cashews, and biofuels, remain largely untapped resources.
With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development and Fijishi being the implementor for the program, the five-year Feed the Future Mali Sɛnɛ Yiriwa (“Prosperous Agriculture”) Southern Zone activity aims to transform production and market systems in Mali’s southern zone to raise incomes and improve the resilience of smallholder households through increased, sustainable production and consumption of nutritious foods.
Part of a broader effort to sustainably reduce hunger, malnutrition, and poverty, Sɛnɛ Yiriwa works closely with other donor-funded activities focused on the market systems that supply inputs and technology to farmers, in addition to linking them with markets in which to sell their products.
Engaging Cooperatives and Expanding Extension Services
Agricultural extension and advisory services can be a powerful tool to help smallholder farmers break the cycle of low productivity, vulnerability, and poverty. As in many developing countries, the existing extension system in Mali is uncoordinated and overstretched; each public extension agent services twice the number of villages recommended by Government of Mali standards, and many of them are approaching retirement age.
Existing farmer cooperatives in Sikasso, estimated at more than 600, provide a platform for augmenting extension capacity and, with support from Sɛnɛ Yiriwa, they will be well positioned to support smallholder farmers with extension services such as aggregation, market information, and access to technology. Recruiting women and youth into extension teams is an important part of the activity as well, with a focus on increasing leadership roles, communicating the importance of nutrition for women and young children, and improving dietary diversity.
Facilitating Access to and Demand for Climate-Smart Agriculture and Sustainable Technologies
Climate-smart, labor-saving agricultural technologies and practices are critical for increasing productivity, strengthening resilience, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sɛnɛ Yiriwa’s specialized advisors are facilitating the co-creation of adapted technical packages with farmer cooperatives to improve the productivity of their crops and livestock.
In addition, locally trained Village Extension Agents will create service-oriented micro-enterprises to promote climate-smart agriculture that multiply and distribute climate-adapted seeds, provide field mechanization and fertilization methods that protect from erosion and rationalize chemical use, boost small livestock productivity, and harvest systems that minimize food loss and waste.
Use of Digital Technologies Help Farmers Make Data-driven Decisions
To build and maintain sustainable and self-reliant farmer-led extension capacity and establish a foundation for future market integration, digital systems are being introduced to transform extension services from basic training and advice to data-driven processes that equip smallholder farmers with climate-smart farming and planning skills.
For example, the activity is building the digital skills of farmer cooperatives and field agents by using readily available spreadsheets and cloud services for data collection and introducing low-cost technologies to allow them to stay in touch with farmers, monitor crop quality and consumption of nutritious foods, and respond quickly to common challenges such as pests, accidents, and destructive weather.
Through a Sustainable Intensification Fund, Sɛnɛ Yiriwa engages local entrepreneurs via grants and provides them training to acquire and apply skills that deliver value-added technologies and services to local farmers. These efforts are designed to provide tangible value to farmers and enable them to reduce the risk of their investments, as well as create employment and business opportunities for local micro-enterprises, particularly those involving youth and women, in the communities they serve.