Food security through small-scale irrigation

Project description

Title: Supporting the national programme for sustainable small-scale irrigation
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Mali
Lead executing agency: Ministère de l’Agriculture
Overall term: 2019 to 2021

Cages Flottantes


Half of Mali’s rural population lives below the poverty line and suffers from undernourishment or malnutrition. Due to climate change and rapid population growth, the traditional methods of rain-fed farming are unable to guarantee sufficient income and food for the population. However, Mali possesses large water reserves and these can be used to expand irrigated agriculture. The main focus here is on ‘small-scale irrigation’, which uses simple irrigation systems that can be produced locally. In this way, agricultural production can be further expanded to increase incomes and improve the nutrition situation. Despite improved coordination of stakeholders in small-scale irrigation, the agricultural division of the Ministry of Agriculture in Mali is not sufficiently involved, in particular with regard to planning and using small-scale irrigation systems. Thus, the prerequisites for efficient and environmentally friendly use of the systems are not taken sufficiently into account. Inadequate organisation of water users is leading to defects in the maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure, inefficient water use and poorly adapted irrigation methods. The processing of harvests is also not appropriate and leads to large losses. This affects harvesting methods, preservation, storage and the processing of agricultural products. A lack of knowledge of product marketing leads to losses of income. 


The planning, productive and nutrition-sensitive framework conditions for a population working in small-scale irrigated agriculture are improved.



The German Federal Government is promoting the expansion of the irrigation infrastructure, with plans for micro-dams and irrigation areas. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the project provides support for the use of the arable land created.

The project advises and supports Mali’s Ministry of Agriculture in developing the legal framework conditions and coordinating the national programme for small-scale irrigation. It trains the staff of the ministry and lower-level authorities to improve adherence to standards in the construction and operation of the irrigation infrastructure. 

The project works mainly with farmers from the Inner Niger Delta in the Timbuktu and Mopti regions, Dogon Country, and the Koulikoro/Bélédougou and Sikasso regions. This was supplemented by measures in the Kayes and Gao regions in 2017. The farmers learn to manage plots in an environmentally sound way, to store, process and market agricultural products such as rice and vegetables in the proper manner, and to improve their nutrition. Training courses disseminate the required knowledge among the population. 


  • A total of 22 curricula have been developed for 233 teaching modules. They form the basis for a high-quality training programme that covers the central areas of small-scale irrigated agriculture. For this purpose, the project has worked together with five regional agricultural education and training centres in the Kayes, Koulikoro, Mopti, Ségou and Sikasso regions.
  • More than 4,000 producers have been trained in improved techniques of rice and vegetable cultivation, post-harvest technology, agricultural entrepreneurship, and the processing and marketing of agricultural products. Around 60 per cent of these participants were women. 
  • Over 90 per cent of the irrigation systems are used intensively by small family farms. Profits from the main areas of cultivation have clearly increased in several regions. 
  • In Gao, twelve small businesses producing vegetables have been established. In the first cultivation cycle, they produced more than 120 tonnes of potatoes, onions and shallots worth almost 61,000 euros. 
  • In Kayes, 120 young people been trained in agricultural entrepreneurship while a further 60 have been trained in fish-farming techniques. Forty floating cages have been installed. In addition, support in horticulture has been provided for women’s groups with a total of 450 members cultivating five plots of land. 

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