Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

Jul17

Five Organizations Sharing Local Knowledge for Success Across the World

Share
Pin It

By Jenna Banning

As Nourishing the Planet has witnessed first-hand, small-scale farmers and local communities have developed innovative ways to meet the challenges facing people across the world. But until recently, they have often lacked the ability to share their solutions, or their knowledge has been overlooked by governments and international groups.

Nourishing the Planet Director Danielle Nierenberg meets with farmers at the Ecova-Mali center. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights five organizations that recognize the valuable contributions farmers can share with their neighbors, with policy makers, and with people across the world.

1. AfricaRice Center:

Created in 1971 by eleven African countries, the Africa Rice Center now works with 24 countries across the continent, connecting researchers, rice farmers, and rice processors.

AfricaRice has been developing learning tools that focus on reaching as many farmers as possible, aiming to both “decentralize and democratize learning within the rice sector.” One powerful method has been farmer-to-farmer videos, which feature local experts sharing their knowledge about seed drying and preservation, rice quality, and soil management with viewers. These videos have been translated into more than 30 African languages, with great impact.

Reaching even beyond the continent, the African Rice Center has also created a set of four videos on seed management with rural women in Bangladesh, helping to further facilitate valuable knowledge exchange between rice farmers.

(more…)

Apr14

Internet and Mobile Phone Access Help Farmers Help Each Other

Share
Pin It

By Graham Salinger 

For 25 years Yacouba Sawadogo, a small-scale farmer in Mali, has been working to stop the process of desertification in the Sahel region of western Africa. During  the 1970s and 1980s the Sahel, a semi-arid area along the southern edge of the Sahara desert that stretches from Senegal’s Atlantic coast to the Ethiopian highlands, experienced severe droughts that left the land baron.

For years farmers have been adapting numerous innovations to re-green the Sahel. (Photo credit: W4RA)

For years farmers like Sawadogo have been adapting numerous innovations to re-green the Sahel. In 2010 the Web Alliance for Regreening in Africa (W4RA) was established to increase access to communication technology so that farmers in the region can share their innovations with one another.

The program, which lasts through 2012, partners with Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam  and the Africa Regreening Initiative to increase the means of communication between farmers. With only 5.7 percent of the population in Africa having internet access, the program helps provide web based and mobile phone based communication technology to small scale farmers in the Sahel.

(more…)

Feb04

Connecting Farmers to Markets in Mali

Share
Pin It

By Kim Kido

Farmers near Tominian in eastern Mali rely on rain to grow food. With a dry season that lasts as long as nine months, farming is only possible for a short amount of time each year. During droughts, food can be scarce until the next growing season.

Tree Aid and Sahel Eco are helping farmers in Mali connect with potential buyers. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

To cope, farmers diversify their income and food sources. Some harvest and sell firewood from forests while others harvest non-timber forest products like fruit, nuts, seeds, and honey to eat or sell. Trees are more drought tolerant than other cultivated crops, and can be easier to manage and harvest.

The shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) is particularly important in the Sahel, which includes Mali, since it begins to produce fruit at the start of the wet season when food stores tend to be lowest. People eat the fruit and save the seed for processing into shea butter. Women traditionally process the nuts into butter, then sell it at local markets.

Two non-governmental organizations, Tree Aid and Sahel Eco, formed a partnership in 2005 to help shea processors in more than twenty Tominian communities improve their access to markets. Recognizing the lack of electricity and prevalence of cell phones and reception in the area, the organizations set up a communication system to collect and disseminate information from farmers about the products they have available for sale.

Farmers call the Sahel Eco office in Bamako, the capitol of Mali, and provide their product and contact information, the office passes the information on to local radio stations and newspapers to spread the word. Interested buyers can then call producers directly on their cell phones. As a result of this effort, many farmers have established connections with buyers for large retail markets and small processors in urban centers of the country like Ségou and Bamako.

(more…)

Dec12

Shea: For people and planet

Share
Pin It

By Kim Kido 

Shea (Vitellaria paradoxa, nilotica) is one of few trees that can withstand the harsh, semi-arid climate of the Sudan and Guinean savannas and the Sahel. Hardy, drought-resistant, and with fireproof bark, the uses of the shea tree are numerous and ancient, dating back to the 1300s.

Woman processing shea kernels into butter. (Photo credit: TREE AID)

Tools and coffins are made out of the wood, while the wastewater from processing seeds acts as a pesticide against weevils. The tree provides forage for sheep and goats as well as food for people. The sweet pulp of the fruit, similar to an avocado, is eaten fresh, providing a valuable source of nutrition early in the rainy season when food can be scarce. And, the tree’s flowers can be added to salads.

The shea tree also provides many environmental benefits. Farmers often intercrop the shea tree with cereal grains where they help to prevent wind erosion, provide shade, and contribute organic matter to the soil.

The uses of the shea nut are most widely known and offer the highest economic value. The seed contains a kernel that is eaten fresh, roasted like almonds, or processed to extract shea butter. Shea butter is traditionally used as a waterproofing material for houses, a cosmetic, a primary source of vegetable fat in cooking, and as a medicine for treating various skin diseases, arthritis, and other ailments.

(more…)

Nov16

Nourishing the Planet TV: School Feeding Programs Improve Livelihoods, Diets, and Local Economies

Share
Pin It

In this week’s episode, we discuss school feeding programs that are helping children and their families in many parts of Africa, where 60 percent of children come to school in the morning without breakfast, if they attend school at all. But, programs such as the The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), are helping to provides school meals for about 20 million children in Africa.

Video: http://youtu.be/HZjiisyOGcc

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.
Oct27

Innovation of the Week: Calling for a More Secure Livelihood

Share
Pin It

By Janeen Madan

In the Tominian district of eastern Mali, farmers have to rely on the short, three-month rainy season to grow the crops they need for the rest of the year. The region’s dry season lasts up to nine months, leaving farmers vulnerable to unpredictable weather patterns.

Tominian farmers protect a shea tree seedling in their fields. (Photo credit: Sahel Eco)

But farmers are finding ways to cushion themselves from these uncertainties and ensure a steady source of income to feed and care for their families. They are selling nuts, fruits, and honey that they collect from trees in the surrounding forest. Growing trees can be more reliable than cultivating crops because they are more resistant to drought. And, they have a different growing pattern, enabling farmers to sell their products year round.

Farmers are growing a variety of fruit trees, including shea—a popular tree across the dry Sahel region that stretches from Senegal to Sudan at the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. Women farmers collect shea nuts, which they process into shea butter products, such as creams, lotions, and soap, that they sell at the local market. And, because the shea fruit ripens at the beginning of the rainy season, it is an important source of food security at a time when families may not have much to eat.

(more…)

Jul16

Farm Radio International

Share
Pin It

By Molly Theobald

More trusted than the evening television or the internet,  newspapers and radio broadcasts are consumers preference for their news. But what if it also helped put food on our plates and increased our incomes? Ottawa-based Farm Radio International is hoping that its radio programs will be able to do just that.

In Mali, farmers are benefiting from up-to-date information provided by various means of communication, including the radio. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Despite the fact that the number of hungry people worldwide is nearly 1 billion people, funding for agricultural development has been steadily declining. Much of the funding that does exist is directed towards ‘one-size-fits-all’ innovations that are often expensive and inaccessible to those most in need. But for the millions of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, dependent on their small-scale farms to feed their families and bring in an income, there are a multitude of inexpensive and relatively easy steps that they could take to improve their harvest yields and their livelihoods.

Even more important than coming up with new agricultural innovations, is getting information about the agricultural innovations that work to the farmers that need them. What farmers in Africa might need turns out to be much closer to what we’ve come to enjoy in our homes  every day.

(more…)

May30

Sweet detar: Food, Fragrance, Fodder, and More

Share
Pin It

By Kim Kido

From food to fragrance, virtually no part of the sweet detar tree (Detarium microcarpum) goes unused. A study of the Mare aux Hippopotames Biosphere Reserve in western Burkina Faso identified the tree as one of six multi-use species “most appreciated by people” and thus “most important”. Two varieties of the species exist. The tall, forest variety produces bitter fruit while the shorter savannah variety produces a sweet, green fruit that is particularly popular in West Africa. The brown pods of sweet-sour fruit have the shape and size of apricots but a shell and pulp akin to its relative the tamarind.

Illustration of detar fruit and flower published in 1891. (Photo credit: Paul Hermann Wilhelm Taubert via Wikipedia Commons)

Usually eaten fresh by children, the fruit is sometimes sun-dried then sold in markets. The fruit is boiled with jackalberry and black plum and concentrated to make fruit leathers in northern Nigeria, while in Sierra Leone, it’s made into a drink. Detar is higher in vitamin C than guava, and has a very good shelf life. It can be returned to its fresh state if it dries out by soaking it in sugar water, and the liquid by-product makes a fruity drink.

Boiling the fragrant seed breaks down the seedcoat to expose a kernel rich in essential amino acids and fatty acids, which is pounded into ofo flour in Nigeria and used to thicken egusi soup. Alternatively, cooking oil is extracted from the kernels by crushing them, with the by-products of this process used as an animal feed. When the seeds are not eaten, they are strung together to make fragrant necklaces.

The fragrance of other parts of the tree is useful as well. If the bark is damaged, a sticky, fragrant gum is secreted that is used to deter mosquitoes. Heated roots produce a sweet scent that is used as a perfume by women in Sudan, and as a mosquito repellent in Chad.

Resistant to moisture, weathering, and pests, the dense, hard wood is workable and thus highly desirable for carpentry and joinery when making houses, boats, and fences. The wood is also sought for firewood and charcoal since it lights quickly, even in the presence of moisture.

The bark, leaves, and roots help to treat a variety of ailments throughout West and Central Africa. Boiled powdered bark is used as a painkiller, fresh bark or leaves are used to dress wounds to prevent infections. In Mali, the bark is used to treat measles and hypertension while the leaves or roots are used to treat meningitis and cramps in people and diarrhea in cattle. The fruit pulp is used in Burkina Faso to treat skin infections, whereas in Niger and Togo the fruit is used to treat dizziness. In Senegal, the leaves mixed with those of other trees and milk is used to treat snakebites, while in Benin the leaves are boiled to treat fainting and convulsions.

The tree itself is heat and drought tolerant and capable of thriving on infertile sites. With its many uses, the tree would be a good candidate for reforestation of degraded lands.

Its usefulness, hardiness, nutritive value, and ability to be propagated by budding also make the tree a good candidate for domestication, according to a study of wild African fruits in 2008 by the U.S. National Research Council.

Kim Kido is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

May19

Innovation of the Week: Researchers Find Farmers Applying Rice Innovations to Their Wheat Crops

Share
Pin It

By Matt Styslinger

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is an innovative method of increasing the productivity of irrigated rice with very simple adjustments to traditional techniques. It involves transplanting younger seedlings into the field with wider spacing in a square pattern, irrigating to keep the roots moist and aerated instead of flooding fields, and increasing organic matter in the soil with compost and manure. The SRI method of crop management has been shown to increase yields in over 40 countries, while simultaneously reducing costs, labor, and the need for inputs of chemical fertilizers and water.

By allowing the roots of wheat crops to develop more fully, farmers are seeing higher yields with less water, fertilizer, and labor. (Photo credit: Cornell University)

Lead SRI researchers, Norman Uphoff and Erika Styger, are spearheading new research on applying SRI methods to wheat cultivation. The methodology—dubbed System of Wheat Intensification (SWI)—is improving wheat yields for small-scale farmers in India and Mali, while reducing costs and labor. In Mali, wheat farmers can increase their yields by 15 to 20 percent, and Indian farmers have seen yields 2 and 3 times higher than those from conventional methods. SWI practices have spread quickly in India, and farmers have spontaneously begun applying the principles to other crops, such as millet, mustard seed, soybean, eggplant, and maize. Collectively, these practices are becoming known as System of Crop Intensification (SCI).

“Two years ago there were 400 farmers—most of them women, and most of them illiterate and landless—who used SWI,” says Uphoff. “The next year it was 25,000, and this year it was 50,000. To go from 400 to 50,000 in two years is unprecedented.” Uphoff believes that this is because the methodology is well-suited to the needs of small-scale farmers in India, and that it is making big improvements to the food security of farming families. “[The state of] Bihar is where we’ve seen the most excitement generated by farmers who say that between SRI in the summer and SWI in the winter, they’ve gone from producing three months’ supply of food for their families to 6 or 7 months.”

Uphoff says that the method is about managing the crop, soil, and nutrients to promote a vibrant soil system that, in turn, promotes larger root systems. With adequate spacing and loose soil, the roots of the crop can grow deeper than from conventional cropping methods. “The extra root activity keeps the soil from compacting,” he says. “It’s really a less is more strategy.” By using fewer plants and reducing the amount of inputs, each plant is hardier and can grow to its natural potential.

“What’s more is organic matter,” he explains. “By adding plenty of organic matter to the soil, you get a lot more bacteria, fungi, mites, and earthworms. That makes the soil a well-aerated system, allowing more air and water to penetrate the roots.”

(more…)

Apr07

Innovation of the Week: Improving Grains to Reduce Hunger

Share
Pin It

By Mara Schechter

Eight hundred million people depend on sorghum and millet as their main food source. One way to help reduce hunger and poverty is to increase production of these high quality grains.

INTSORMIL-sorghum-millet-USAID

INTSORMIL is a research organization that develops new technologies to increase the productivity of sorghum, millet, finger millet, tef and fonio. (Photo credit: FAO)

That’s is the mission of the Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains Collaborative Research Support Program (INSTORMIL), which is one of nine United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported CRSP programs. Established in 1979, the International Sorghum and Millet Program was renamed—although it kept the well-known acronym—and moved to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2006.

INTSORMIL is a research organization that develops new technologies to increase the productivity of sorghum, millet, finger millet, tef and fonio. Through “international collaborative research,” or partnering with scientists in host countries, and educating graduate students and scientists, INTSORMIL aims to strengthen incomes, nutrition and food security.

The program has various projects in the United States and 17 other countries, which include breeding grains that are more resilient to pests and drought, researching and disseminating information about water and soil management and conservation, and expanding markets for grains. “Water in semiarid areas often comes in very intense rainfall and runs off rapidly…so water retention techniques are critical,” explains John Sanders, an agricultural economist at Purdue University who has a research contract with INTSORMIL. (more…)