From a conference topic to a fully fleshed out method today, climate-smart agriculture has become a formidable weapon that farmers can use to face climate change.
Climate-smart agriculture was first discussed at The Hague Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change in 2010 where the concept was launched by FAO in 2010 in a reference document. Its aim is to promote new types of environmentally-friendly agricultural practices and contribute to food security.
In Mali, intelligent farming techniques have become indispensable. “Zai”, for instance, is a particular form of potted culture that allows water and manure to be concentrated in micro-basins where the seeds will be sown. The “micro-dose” technique calls for localized fertilization to avoid wasting fertilizer and limit weed growth. “Composting” is also one of the most important practices. Ecological and economical, it allows to obtain fertilizers from waste transformation.
The approach is currently being implemented as part of the second Waati Yelema Labenw, a development project focused on resilience coordinated by Blumont in partnership with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and non-profit AMASSA Afrique verte Mali. Since April 2018, this coalition has been helping communities in southwest and central Mali to farm better in difficult climatic conditions.
The communities have benefited from the new knowledge, one that enabled them to increase yields, use crops well, protect the environment and adapt to the effects of increasing temperatures and unpredictable rainfall periods.
“We used stones to channel rainwater in our fields, a practice that was not feasible for all, for lack of means to transport them … We were hungry in this village and harvests were very rare, we had a lot of difficulties to feed everyone and to generate income” said Bourama Traore, a farmer in the village of Mpesserebougou.
“With the contribution of the Waati Yelema Labenw project, we realize that we have more farmland than we thought, since any soil can produce results if we take the right actions,” he added.
“Before, our field work was depleted without any rule or method. We sowed on unprepared soils and we did not have enough rains … the crops were insufficient to ensure food,” explained Bourama Kone, a farmer in the village of Socialo, in Mali’s Segou region.
“After only eight months of partnership with the project, we learned how to make our own compost, and we are practicing more and more micro-dose, contouring or associated cultures … these practices have already made a difference,” said Araba Diarra, a farmer from Yurt, a village in the region of Mopti.
SOILS RESPOND POSITIVELY
As the new techniques prove their worth, communities are surprised by how soils respond positively, displaying more stability and fertility than before.
“Micro-dose, and Zai are techniques that have transformed my field … we started harvesting millet and corn, the quantity is incredible, I do not remember having such plentiful harvests before,” explained Dede Diarra, a farmer in the village of Manta in the region of Koulikoro.
“We also saw the benefits of improved seeds because they are very fast. Compost too, because we spend less on fertilizers … Our crops have been boosted, millet fields have been very successful this year, millet grains are thick. It has been more than five years since the millet harvest had been as successful, ” said Araba Diarra.
According to Bourama Koné, Zai is the technique that has most helped farmers in the village of Socialo, in the region of Ségou. “It allowed to keep a high (level of) humidity in our soil,” he said.
“Before, we produced only about 2-3 bags [MS(F1] [U2] of cereals, but this year we have already reached 15 bags of cereals, while the harvest is not over yet, ” he added.
Bourama Traoré, meanwhile, cited the merits of the different practices that he believes have helped him in myriad ways.
“Thanks to Zai, my fields contain the necessary humidity; The contoured development has allowed us to channel and control the flow of rainwater; the micro-dose technique not only helps us spread fertilizer back into the fields, but also reduces strigagrowth,” he explained.
The testimonies collected raise our confidence in these practices as well as that of these populations whose agricultural activities were affected by a changing climate. Beneficiaries intend to share with neighboring villages the knowledge and experience they gained during the project, they said.
The Waati Yelema Labenw project is funded by DFIDs BRACED initiative and focuses on building climate change resiliency for vulnerable populations in Mali. You can find this story, as well as other BRACED-funded project success stories on their website, www.braced.org.