The Syngenta Foundation developed PRECAD (Projet de Renforcement des Capacités pour une Agriculture Durable) to help farmers become more professional and to achieve higher yields and income. PRECAD finished at the end of 2012.
Mali is still recovering from the 2012 putsch and subsequent armed conflict. Fortunately, many donors have now re-engaged. We have continued working in Mali throughout.
For well over 30 years*, the Syngenta Foundation and its predecessors have been supporting agricultural research in Mali through the Institute of Rural Economy and in particular the Cinzana Agricultural Research Station. This fruitful partnership with the government of Mali and others has helped introduce and develop numerous seed varieties and technologies for semi-arid areas in West Africa. Farmer communities in Mali's Cinzana and Katiena now recognize the importance of high-performance seed varieties and technologies for generating income. The Syngenta Foundation initiated the PRECAD project with rural communities in 2006 to strengthen farmers' capacities through targeted, demand-driven training.
Objectives and activities
PRECAD's objective was to improve livelihoods and food security in rural communities of the Ségou region. It did so through greater productivity in pearl millet-based farming systems and the development of farmer-based enterprises.
In 2011-12, the Foundation's partnership in Mali moved the focus of its activities from sorghum, cowpea and millet research to enterprise development. The new direction aimed to stabilize and increase farmers' income. The new PRECAD program employed a full-time agronomist, Salif Kanté, with extensive experience in Malian family farming production systems. Dr. Kanté, who has stayed on with the Foundation, introduced farmers to the new activities.
Thanks to his efforts, millet and sorghum producers are able to store their surplus harvests in communal storage facilities. The Foundation shared construction costs with the farmers.
Instead of selling crops at harvest time, when prices are lowest, farmers are able to sell them through Faso Jigi when prices are more attractive. Faso Jigi is one of Mali's largest farmer associations with 134 cooperatives. It is partly funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Faso Jigi has good links to banks, and can therefore access resources for onward lending to farmers through microfinance institutions. As a condition of membership, farmers first prove to Faso Jigi that they are producing surplus grain.
The Foundation has reorganized its funding of the Cinzana Research Station. Concentrating on operational activities means a gradual withdrawal of direct support. The Foundation is considering research proposals on biofuels, carbon sequestration by Acacia senegal and Jatropha, a model farm, and nitrogen fixation, through Mali's national agricultural research committee.
PRECAD started with 25 villages. The total target is 99 villages with approximately 65 thousand inhabitants. The goal is to:
- Strengthen organizational capacities to permit the establishment of effective and officially certified cooperatives. This certificate is necessary to obtain loans from local banks and get government recognition,
- Disseminate new technologies, seeds and farm inputs, diversification of production at farmer level, and
- Enable farmers and their organizations to become viable commercial partners and sell their products in local and regional markets.
PRECAD has helped producers to set up cooperatives and improve their access to market. In 2010, the Cereals Cooperative Union agreed to a contract with the World Food Program (WFP) for 400 tons of high quality millet and sorghum. Today, this cooperative is one of WFP's most important partners in its "P4P" work in Mali.
* Read the University of Berne's 2011 history of the first 30 years: "Quand les greniers se remplissent".
Here is the English summary.
Journalist competition features Foundation work in Mali
Mali and SFSA featured in the finals of the Guardian newspaper's 2011 Development Journalism Competition. Runner-up Jack Craze researched with us on agricultural cooperatives in Mali. He also contributed four case studies to the Guardian's website.