SÉGOU (Mali), November 17, 2010—The World Bank has increased funding for the Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project (ACDP) in Mali to US$46.4 million, up from the US$35 million initially projected in the Country Assistance Strategy.
The program aims to combat constraints hampering the growth of sectors of the agro-industry where Mali has a comparative advantage and enjoys clear-cut market opportunities.
Mango is the most well-known product; however, the project would also like to promote papaya and shallot, among other crops, by developing and disseminating techniques that boost productivity and competitiveness of farms and rural processing companies.
Boubacar Sanogo is a school teacher in Bla, a town in central Mali, where he teaches mathematics, chemistry, and biology. This agriculture aficionado started producing papayas and papaya seeds after he hosted an ACDP test site on his plot. The test proved a success since, using the micro-jet system introduced by the ACDP to water the papaya trees, Sanogo produced 1,300 fruits and one kilogram of seeds in 2009. That year he racked in CFAF 700,000 (approximately US$1,400) in revenue, a sum well above the salary he earns as a teacher.
Mamadou Diallo is a former emigrant who returned to his country after 20 years abroad. He chose to buy land with the money he earned in the restaurant business in France. The large estate he purchased in Banankoro, 13 kilometers from Ségou, gave him a good start but without appropriate guidance, his attempts failed. Then he found out about Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Program and was introduced to papaya cultivation.
“The technical assistance I received through the project allowed me to produce one hectare of papayas using the drip system. With the manual irrigation system I was using before I would not have been able to plant a whole hectare,” Diallo says.
He divided his field into several areas for diversified crops.
“Without assistance from the program, I would not have been able to work like this, using an irrigation system that allows me to move quickly and make use of a much larger surface area,” Diallo said. His first crop of papayas, which he will sell wholesale, is expected in February.
Oumar Diarra, a contractor who oversees the program and nine other ACDP subprojects, said the program helped Diallo learn how to set up an irrigation system that works best with papayas.
“Our assistance to Diallo involved the preparation of his documents. I also explained to him the problems caused by the abundant supply of water this year. Papaya likes neither too much nor too little water, which led us to use the drip system in order to better control the water supply and minimize the loss of water that is typical of the traditional irrigation system,” explains Diarra.
“After having worked in France, I no longer wish to return there. It’s possible to earn a living here,” the 55-year-old Diallo says.
Providing storage for perishable crops
In Sekoro, in the suburbs of Ségou, Habib Traoré cultivates shallots, a highly perishable product that poses storage challenges.
At harvest time this year, a kilogram of shallots sold for CFAF 75 (US$0.15) because of abundant supply on the market. When stored until times of scarcity, the same kilogram sells for CFAF 600 (US$1.20). Traoré could take advantage of the higher sale price thanks to a turnkey storage facility that was provided by the project.
“I heard that the ACDP could provide assistance with processing and storage. They asked me if I had a storage room. I said no. They offered to help, and I contributed by making bricks for the construction,” Traoré says.
The storage facility has several openings and a well-made ceiling that keep the internal temperature constant in order to preserve the crops so that they retain all of their flavor and freshness.
Financing for entrepreneurs
Nantènè Coulibaly, an agricultural engineer, spent 26 years working with a large textile company. Today, she applies this experience to help a grain processing unit financed by an ACDP grant of CFAF 3,090,000 (approximately US$6,180) and a personal contribution of CFAF 4,385,000 (roughly US$8,770). Her 14 workers, including the entrepreneur herself, produce and package precooked fonio, cracked corn and pearl millet for porridge, and dried cream paste.
For fonio alone, production has increased from 500 kilograms to 2.5 metric tons packaged per month. “Every day we process about 100 kg. We work six days a week,” Coulibaly states proudly. She has adopted as her own the motto of the Institut Polytechnique Rural de Katibougou, her alma mater: “Acquire knowledge to help and care for the African farmer.”
“Our goal is to expand and be competitive on the market in order to continuously meet the needs of national, subregional, and international customers,” she says.