Perennial Grain Crops in the West Soudanian Savanna of Mali

Perspectives from agroecology and gendered spaces

Journal: International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability

Authors: Paul Rogé, Tidiane Diarisso, Fatoumata Diallo, Youssouf Boiré, Diakaridia Goïta, Brad Peter, Moussa Macalou, Eva Weltzien, and Sieglinde Snapp

Date published: 2017-09-06


Perennial grain crops may play an important role in environmentally sound and socially just food systems for Africa. We study the future possibility of integrating perennial grains into Malian farming systems from the perspective of agroecology, and more specifically using a gendered space approach. We interviewed 72 farmers across the sorghum-growing region of Mali. We found that perennial grains offer a vision for transforming human relations with nature that mirrors the resource sharing of customary land tenure, including patterns of extensive and intensive land use in time and space. Women interviewees identified a broad set of potential advantages and challenges to perennial grain production. Advantages include reduced labour, saving seed, and improving food security. Women farmers were concerned about livestock, water access, and resource limitations. We argue that perennial grains may increase access to land and natural resources for women farmers. Perennial grains may improve soil quality, reduce labour early in the rainy season, and provision more resources from fallow lands. Pastoralists stand to benefit from improved pastures in the dry season. We conclude that investments are needed to develop viable crop types in consideration of the complexity of West African farming systems and the local needs of women farmers and pastoralists.

Keywords: Africa, agroecology, gender, Mali, perennial grains

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