Millet and sorghum are major staple food crops in Mali. They occupy over 70 percent of cultivated areas in the country and are consumed by more than 80 percent of the population. Given the volume of these cereals consumed and the sheer size of the population that consumes them, millet and sorghum occupy a very strategic position in efforts to meet food security and poverty reduction objectives in Mali. Despite the heavy consumption of these two cereals among the rural population in Mali, consumption by urban populations is decreasing in favor of other products, particularly rice, which takes less time and effort to prepare. This is a worldwide phenomenon: as urban incomes increase, consumption of millet and sorghum decreases. Certain experiences in West Africa show, however, that urban demand can increase if table-ready products derived from millet and sorghum are made available. In Mali, processing of these table-ready products is just starting, with support from the INTSORMIL program.
The productivity of a typical millet and sorghum producer has increased little in recent decades—growth in production has been small and based largely on increased area rather than improved yields. IICEM is collaborating with the IER, DNA, INTSORMIL, and local NGOs to scale up the use of improved millet and sorghum varieties, which are at the core of increased productivity. The NGOs and DNA provide the extension support needed to introduce improved production practices and improved seed. IICEM will use its financial tools to support access to finance for participating producers, enabling them to complement the seed with fertilizer and other improved inputs.
Climate change projections suggest that rainfall may be even more limited in the future. Ways to increase food security and adapt to climate change include producing millet and sorghum using techniques such as water harvesting; increasing production by using more productive, shorter-cycle, and more drought-tolerant varieties; and using other improved production practices.
What IICEM seeks to achieve & how IIEM is implemented
To enhance access to markets and trade IICEM focuses in areas such as promoting group sales, improving post-harvest quality and introducing modern processing equipment to create quality packaged product, building storehouses, and building linkages between millet farmers and industrial-scale buyers. For example, IICEM facilitated contacts between millet farmers and the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Purchase For Progress program, securing a supply contract for more than 1,000 metric tons of an improved quality of millet that is being produced on more than 1,500 hectares.
To intensify agricultural production IICEM aims to build the capacity of agricultural field agents and producer organizations, support the purchase of inputs by IICEM-assisted cooperatives and support access to improved seed. IICEM helped 3,285 farmers plant a new variety of millet/sorghum better adapted to Mali’s challenging climate, in turn increasing their adaptive capacity to cope with the effects of climate variability and change.
With IICEM’s entrepreneurship focus, improving production is a means to connecting producers to markets and helping them develop relationships that lead to sustained business partnerships. Connecting the poor to markets remains IICEM’s priority goal and underlying focus of production activities.
To enhance financial services the program will negotiate and develop adapted loan products with financial institutions: agricultural season loans, loans for storage of dry cereals (particularly millet and sorghum), and facilitate access to finance for agricultural inputs and storage.
To foster a more enabling environment IICEM focuses its activities on strengthening professional unions, improving dialogue between value chain actors, and hosting trainings to present and discuss new orientations and strategies that support broad- scale agricultural development.