Supporting the national programme for sustainable 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: 2017 to 2019

Internetseite_PASSIP_Etuvage riz_ Kassoum Keita


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 in small-scale irrigation schemes to develop and diversify agricultural production and to improve nutrition.

In early 2012, the Government of the Republic of Mali adopted the National Programme for Small-scale Irrigation. However, as the state actors and public and private service providers lack the know-how to implement the programme, small family farms have so far enjoyed the benefits of improved irrigation systems only to a limited extent. The yield from agricultural production is low and is not sufficient to bring sustainable improvements in the food situation.


The rural population engaged in small-scale irrigated agriculture improves its economic situation and food and nutrition security.


The German Government initially financed the irrigation infrastructure by providing funding for the construction of micro-dams and the establishment of irrigation schemes. With the current project, GIZ, on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provides extensive support for the sustainable use of the arable land created.

In cooperation with the responsible ministries in Mali, the project develops appropriate legal frameworks and trains the staff of ministries and government authorities to implement and monitor them. In cooperation with training institutions, the project has developed curricula and teacher training courses to improve the level of training for service providers in the small-scale irrigation sector.

Farmers learn to cultivate their land sustainably, to store, process and market their agricultural produce – such as rice and vegetables – properly, and to improve their diet. The project and agricultural extension staff organise training sessions to disseminate the required knowledge among the people. This is gradually enabling people to use the economic potential of small-scale irrigation to make their farms profitable and improve their diet.

The project works mainly with famers from the Inner Niger Delta in the Timbuktu and Mopti regions, Dogon Country, and the Koulikoro/Bélédougou and Sikasso regions. Measures in the Kayes region will be implemented as of 2017.

The project is cofinanced by the European Union and the Canadian Government. Curricula and teacher training courses are developed in cooperation with the consulting consortium AFC/ECO.


The strategic planning basis for developing small-scale irrigation in Mali is the National Programme for Small-scale Irrigation, which was devised with support from the predecessor project and adopted by the Council of Ministers in early 2012.

The National Directorate for Rural Infrastructure is coordinating the activities of the various national and international organisations working to promote small-scale irrigation among family farms. Its employees are now able to handle all matters relating to small-scale irrigation.

The Manual of Good Practices in Small Scale Irrigation and a technical manual for micro-dams are now available.

Together with five regional agricultural training centres, the project developed 12 curricula with a total of 46 modules in the regions of Kayes, Koulikoro, Mopti, Ségou and Sikasso. They are the basis for a high-quality training programme that covers the central areas of small-scale irrigated agriculture. Versions of the curricula adapted to the natural conditions in the individual regions are also available. The curricula have been used to train 660 intermediaries, a quarter of them women. Private agricultural service providers work with the new content.

More than 3,000 producers, around 60 per cent of them women, have been trained in improved techniques of rice and vegetable cultivation, post-harvest technology, agricultural entrepreneurship and in the processing and marketing of agricultural products.

Over 90 per cent of the irrigation systems set up in the Inner Niger Delta are cultivated intensively by small family farms. Since switching from the traditional farming methods, the farmers have been able to triple their rice yield and have maintained a stable yield level averaging 5.8 tonnes per hectare, even during the political crisis in 2012–2013.

Onions and shallots are cultivated on the irrigable land around the micro-dams that have been built in Dogon County. They have achieved an excellent average yield of 27 tonnes per hectare per year.

In Bélédougou, the farmers have quadrupled the rice yield on their irrigation plots around the micro-dams and river weirs to 4 tonnes per hectare. The tomato yield is very high at between 26 and 32 tonnes per hectare.

Small-scale irrigation system in the town of Diré in the Timbuktu region © GIZ / PASSIP PMN

Rice cultivation in Mali is dominated by men. As a result of the increase in the proportion of vegetables being cultivated, considerably more women are now working in agriculture. In the Koulikoro/Bélédougou region and Dogon County, the proportion of women is 30 per cent, while in the Inner Niger Delta, where the main crop is rice, that proportion is just 6 per cent.

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