SEATTLE — Mali is one of the poorest nations in the world, with an estimated 60 percent of its population living below the poverty line. It is situated in West Africa, and like many other developing nations, Mali depends heavily on agriculture for food security and economic growth. However, conditions such as climate change and population growth threaten agricultural production in the country, making sustainable agriculture in Mali a crucial goal.
The main issues that threaten sustainable agriculture in Mali include soil fertility decline and food deficits. Since 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been carrying out several Integrated Production and Pest Management (IPPM) programs in the country and supporting the government’s agriculture-related programs and policies in order to ensure sustainable agriculture in Mali.
The IPPM was created with the intention of improving “farming skills and raising smallholder farmers’ awareness of risks from and alternatives to toxic chemicals.” The three main goals include developing farming capacity, improving food security and livelihoods and raising awareness.
The FAO has worked with several foreign partners in order to carry out IPPM activities in Mali that help farmers improve efficiencies, production and profits for cotton, rice, vegetables and a variety of other crops. Additionally, the IPPM efforts also include a project on climate change adaptation, which works with communities in the country to explore ways to adapt to climate change effects such as droughts and flooding.
The IPPM activities aim to increase household incomes, improve diets and promote a sustainable environment. So far, one-third of the 85,054 farmers trained by the IPPM program have been women.
In addition to erratic climate changes, Mali also suffered from the 2007-2008 food crisis that hit most of West Africa, when international food prices reached their highest levels in 30 years. In response, FAO launched the regional initiative called APRAO (2010-2013) to aid the governments that were most affected, which included Mali. This program focused on the entire rice value chain and promoted successful technologies and approaches developed in the IPPM program.
Similar to the initiatives by FAO, CARE has also been working to promote sustainable agriculture in Mali with a special focus on women’s empowerment. Despite women’s notable contributions to this sector, Malian patriarchal society hinders them from significantly benefiting from agriculture.
CARE’s Nyeleni was launched to ensure gender equality in sustainable agriculture in Mali. The project is being implemented in four regions and focuses on farming, aquaculture and livestock rearing. The main objective is to “enable more productive and more equitable participation of selected segments of poor women smallholder farmers in sustainable agriculture within three livelihood systems”. Nyeleni is estimated to directly impact 39,000 extremely poor rural women and 167,500 other members of their households.
A huge percentage of Malians depend on agriculture, and the sector accounts for 38 percent of the country’s GDP. Hence, it is crucial that investment in sustainable agriculture in Mali does not fall short. The fact that Mali is considered the poorest West African nation makes continued efforts in this sector all the more important.
– Mehruba Chowdhury