Exchanging local seeds in Mali


Exchanging local seeds in Mali

IFAD-EU NUS Africa Bambara Groundnut Fonio On-Farm Conservation Capacity, Awareness & Policy

Two seed diversity fairs brought together hundreds of farmers in Ségou and Sikasso regions of Mali earlier this year. In total 293 people came from 10 different villages, each bringing their own genetic variety of seeds. The fairs were organized by the Institute of Rural Economy (IER) in Mali in connection with the IFAD-EU NUS Project and the IFAD PAPAM Programme to raise awareness about the genetic diversity of local crops, encourage exchange of seeds and knowledge between villages, and provide opportunities for participants to learn about the performance and qualities of the different varieties. The fairs were carried out, from preparation to implementation, with participation of the farmers and local NGOs (ASEM and CAAD).

Village representatives brought many species and varieties to display, including both local and improved varieties. For the fair in Ségou region, 20 species and 147 varieties were exhibited, discussed and tasted. In the Sikasso region this was the case for 15 species and 40 varieties. Among the species were fonio (Digitaria sp.) and Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterannea), which are two of the key crops in the IFAD-EU NUS project. In total 20 and 37 varieties of fonio and Bambara groundnut, respectively, were presented at the two fairs. As a result of the event, several varieties of the species were introduced to sites in Sikasso region from Ségou.   

Beyond seeds, the fairs also included a recipe competition as a way to inspire the communities to use their local crop diversity in the kitchen. Villagers presented their personal, new and alternative recipes comprising a broad diversity of local grains and vegetables. Fonio and Bambara groundnut formed the basis for many of the dishes and could be found boiled, grilled, in croquettes, in cakes and pancakes as well as in traditional dishes such as foyo, djouka and tô – the latter being the staple porridge of Mali. The dishes were evaluated by a panel of judges and the winners were honored with financial donations to the engaged groups in the winning villages, being Finkoloni in Sikasso region and Boumboro in Ségou region.  

In addition to farmers, the fairs also attracted actors with a stake in the value chains and production related to the local crops. These included local traders and processors and representatives from NGOs, farmers groups and cooperatives. Their participation strengthened the exchange of knowledge and the understanding between actors in the crop value chains. Moreover, local decision-makers chaired the event and expressed their interest in implementing the concept of seed fairs in the social economic development plans of their communes.

In these times, due to an increasingly unpredictable climate, the need for adapted crops is more and more important. The seed fairs were an important activity that enabled the exchange of seeds and knowledge across villages, and contributed to the conservation of a broad genetic diversity of seeds, which is essential for the long-term resiliency of the local crops.

Blog prepared based on reports by Amadou Sidibe, Harouna Coulibaly and Charlie Mbosso

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