Solar Irrigation in Mali: Potential to increase food security amid climate vulnerability



Actions are needed urgently in Mali - the country is on the front-line of climate change, and expected to experience worsened food insecurity and even food shortages. The people of Mali rely heavily on rainfed agriculture, exposing them to pervasive climate-related shocks. Irrigated agriculture is one high potential pathway to increase resilience and improve food security.

With the growing urgency to expand irrigation expansion for smallholders in the region, suitability mapping can help to target the right people, in the right places and with the right technologies. ILSSI supported research to identify areas in Mali where there is a high potential for scaling solar water pumps for developing irrigation: Suitability for farmer-led solar irrigation development in Mali.

Results from the mapping show the total area suitable for solar-based irrigation varies between 0.69 and 4.44 million hectares (Mha), representing 11% and up to 69% of Mali’s agricultural lands. Groundwater up to depths of 7 m can be found near the river network in south-western Mali and the central Niger Delta making Kayes, Mopti and Koulikoro are the most suitable regions.

The mapping utilizes data including: solar irradiation, groundwater levels, aquifer productivity, groundwater storage, proximity to rivers, proximity to small dams, crop, and land suitability, and travel time to markets. Areas that are unsuitable for agricultural production, such as natural parks, forests, permanent meadows and pastures, are excluded. Suitability was assessed for five different available water sources, considering two different types of pumps.

Suitable areas could be expanded through investments in infrastructure to increase access to markets for produce. This mapping considered existing infrastructure, such as road networks and markets, so expanding that infrastructure could create greater potential in more areas.

More information, including the maps, is available in a Technical Brief. This research was carried out by the International Water Management Institute under the Water, Land, and Ecosystems Research Program. Additional funding was provided by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).