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Highlighting horticulture in Mali

AVRDC training increases skills and knowledge of vegetable producers in Mali, and tours raise awareness of best practices.

Mali’s vegetable seed sector faces many challenges in improving the quality, availability, accessibility, and affordability of seed of improved lines developed by the Institute of Rural Economy (IER) and AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center. To build local capacity in seed multiplication and delivery, especially in the Sikasso region, a training of trainers workshop in vegetable seed production was held on 12-13 November 2013 at AVRDC’s Samanko Research Station in Bamako.

The workshop, part of the USAID-Mali project “Improving Vegetable Production and Consumption in Mali,” brought together 25 participants (9 women and 16 men) from six seeds companies and producers’ organizations: Faso Kaba, Mali Semence, Nakoshi, Baddar seed, UNCPM (Union Nationale des Coopératives de Planteurs et Maraîchers) and Sahel Veto. The participants learned various techniques for vegetable seed production, processing and storage. Over the short- and medium-term, the knowledge they gained will be transferred to farmer seed producers throughout the Sikasso region.

As well as being exposed to improved production methods and technologies, the participating seed companies and organizations also learned how to better monitor seed production activities with contract seed producers. Some participants, who up until to now imported vegetable seed to sell in Mali, realized that it was possible to build a successful seed business in the country based on the national seed production network. As they begin to disseminate their new knowledge, the trainers will strengthen Mali’s vegetable seed sector in the years to come.

Garden hubs disseminate best practices

AVRDC Mali recently hosted a tour of Africa Rising project activities for partners from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI – Ghana) and IITA Nigeria. Local partners including MOBIOM (Movement Biologique Malien), AMASSA (Agence Malienne de Sécurité et Souveraineté Alimentaire), AMEDD (Association Malienne d’Eveil pour le Développement Durable), and the Institute of Rural Economy (IER), along with staff from USAID Mali, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) based at Samanko Research Station also joined the delegation for the activity, held on 23 October 2013 in Molobala distict of Koutiala in Sikasso, southern Mali.

AVRDC staff welcomed visitors and gave an overview of project, which aims to enhance vegetable value chains in rice-based and sole crop production systems to improve farm household income and consumer access to safer vegetables.

In Sikasso, there are four demonstration gardens acting as best practice hubs serving 10-15 satellite villages within a radius of 15 km. The hubs are learning centers where best production practices, research and training are implemented to share knowledge with vegetable producers. The demonstration gardens serve to test and identify farmer-preferred vegetable varieties and the best practices for irrigation systems, mulching, and plant protection techniques, with a particular focus on environmental sustainability. Farmers participate in the evaluation and selection of these technologies.

Visitors got a look at seedling nurseries and four irrigation systems. They showed keen interest in an environmentally sustainable method of nursery soil disinfection that uses solarization and neem (Azachdirachta indica) treatments to reduce pathogenic fungi, nematodes, and weed seeds.

Eighty producers (8 men and 72 women) work in the Molobala demonstration garden. During the delegation’s tour of Molobala, the women invited the visitors into the new training center, where they demonstrated methods for tomato juice extraction. In training courses offered by AVRDC staff, the women learned how to extract tomato juice and process it when tomato supplies are high. The processed juice can be kept for six months, providing a nutritious vegetable product when fresh tomato is scarce in the market. The group intends to begin selling the juice in the future.

At the Flola garden in Bougouni district, women farmers expressed a desire to receive seed of AVRDC’s improved vegetable lines, especially okra, which has been tested in that location. The women preferred these okra lines because of their productivity, earliness, and viscosity.

Learning to use a mechanical seed separator during a training session.

Learning to use a mechanical seed separator during a training session. Small-scale seed companies need equipment suited to their operations.