by Jean-baptiste Tignegre and Pepijn Schreinemachers
Gaining access to more and better vegetable seeds represents an opportunity for smallholder farmers in Mali to grow high-value crops and improve their diets, incomes, and ability to adopt small scale irrigation technologies.
Small scale irrigation is expensive for many farmers in Mali and elsewhere. Smallholder farmers who produce staple food crops may not easily be able to make such an investment. Cultivating more profitable crops, such as vegetables, offers better prospects for eventually being able to invest in irrigation and improve farm incomes.
However, Malian farmers have limited opportunity to take up production of vegetables due to an under-developed seed sector in the country. Currently, vegetable seed production is often restricted to the wet season due to a lack of irrigation technologies, which is not the only constraint. Seed companies and cooperatives have low technical capacity in variety development and quality seed production, face difficulties in accessing finance, and lack suitable equipment for seed processing and packing. As a result, many vegetable farmers are using costly imported seed.
To strengthen local vegetable seed production, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Small Scale Irrigation (ILSSI) and World Vegetable Center in Mali recently trained staff of vegetable seed companies and seed cooperatives on how to strengthen seed production.
The training was held at the World Vegetable Center Regional Office for West and Central Africa – Dry Regions in Samanko near Bamako on November 16–20, 2020. Twenty staff of fourteen different seed companies and cooperatives participated in the workshop. Participants came from diverse regions of Mali including Kayes, Sikasso, Koutiala, Koro, and Bamako.
World Vegetable Center’s Regional Director Dr. Mamadou Kabirou Ndiaye welcomed participants and described the opportunities and challenges of vegetable producers in Mali and West Africa, including limitations in accessing water for irrigation and an under-developed market.
The five-day training combined classroom teaching with hands-on sessions. Resource persons came from the World Vegetable Center and the Institute or Rural Economy. Topics included vegetable breeding, including different crossing methods, seed legislation, seed production methods, crop management, soil fertility management, pest management, and irrigated water management, including the pros and cons of different irrigation methods.
Participants said that they were very satisfied with the course and hoped for a future opportunity to receive follow-on training. Given the high interest among vegetable seed producers, a second course has been scheduled for March 22–26, 2021.