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Benefits and limits of inland valley development to enhance agricultural growth: a farmers’ perception approach in southern Mali

Abstract

In the last 40 years in sub-Saharan Africa, huge investments have been made in inland valley (IV) development for agricultural production. Understanding the agricultural and socioeconomic impacts of IV development may help develop strategies for modernization and optimization of irrigation systems. A farmers’ perception approach was used to analyze the impacts of IV development on agricultural and hydraulic performances and on farmers’ socioeconomic conditions in the circle of Sikasso, Mali. Data were collected through focus group discussions, field visits and participatory observations in 37 inland valleys of which 17 were developed. The two main water control systems observed in developed inland valleys were (1) controlled submersion with bunded plots dedicated to rice and (2) spate irrigation regulated by weirs and cofferdams. Compared to undeveloped inland valleys, controlled submersion and spate irrigation expanded the cultivated area in the rainy season. In the dry season, crop extension was observed only in spate irrigation schemes. Higher crop productivity was observed in inland valleys located close to an urban market and in valleys cultivated during the off-season. Spate irrigation is widespread in bigger inland valleys with more water resources and is often associated with the cultivation of higher value off-season crops. Consequently, we observed farmers had individual and collective investment capacity in spate irrigation schemes than in controlled submersion and undeveloped inland valleys. The study highlighted the importance of re-thinking the design of water control facilities to enable crop diversification to improve the livelihoods of inland valley-dependent communities.

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Acknowledgements

This research was conducted in the framework of the project ‘Realizing the agricultural potential of the inland valley lowlands in sub-Saharan Africa while maintaining their environmental services’ (RAP-IV), funded by the European Union (C-ECG-65-WARDA).

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Huat, J., Fusillier, JL., Dossou-Yovo, E. et al. Benefits and limits of inland valley development to enhance agricultural growth: a farmers’ perception approach in southern Mali. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 6111–6129 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-019-00466-6

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Keywords

  • Inland valleys
  • Crop diversification
  • Crop intensification
  • Land development
  • Market access
  • West Africa