Cooperation in action Tackling the crisis in Mali using decentralised irrigation systems

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. Since 2012 it has also been mired in violent conflict. To achieve lasting peace, it is vital to improve conditions for all sections of the population.

A farmer in Mali is irrigating his field.

A farmer in Mali is irrigating his field.

A farmer in Mali is irrigating his field.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the Malian economy. Three quarters of the population work in the sector. However, given the country’s climatic conditions and rapid population growth, smallholders are not managing to generate sufficient income or produce enough food to eat using traditional rain-fed cultivation methods. Yet Mali in fact has huge water reserves, which could be used to secure food supply to the Sahel countries over the long term.

That is why the KfW has been tasked by the German government with supporting the development of the National Programme for Proximity Irrigation (PNIP), which was adopted by the government of Mali in early 2012. Grant funding totalling 170 million euros has now been made available for the PINIP by Germany, the European Union, Canada and the US.

The programme aims to enhance food production over the long term, improve the lives of the rural population and, in that way, build new confidence in local, regional and national structures.

Several different irrigation systems have been introduced. Pumps and canals are used to increase targeted irrigation of the fields. New inundation areas serve as retention mechanisms to ensure that, when it rains, the water is retained and can augment groundwater levels. Floodplains, dams and vegetable gardens that are irrigated with shallow wells are included in the measures. Complementary infrastructure measures include erosion protection to prevent fertile soil from being washed away by rain and the building of trails, roads and warehouses to make it easier to bring agricultural goods to market.

57,000 more hectares newly gained for agriculture or made fertile again

Between 2014 and 2019, just under 57,000 hectares of land were newly gained for agriculture or made fertile again with the help of German funding. Most of this land was in the Inner Niger Delta, with around 33,900 hectares in Timbuktu and 15,900 hectares in Mopti.

Nearly 150,000 small family farms and over 700,000 people have directly benefited from the farmland, the retention mechanisms, the vegetable gardens, fish farming, warehouses and new roads and trails. This has enabled them to plant more rice, potatoes and vegetables and to increase their annual income by a projected 30 per cent.

The support provided by the KfW has helped to boost Mali's food production and increase the amount of farmland available. This will ultimately allow rice production to be trebled or even quadrupled.

Through this small-scale irrigation programme, Germany is helping to increase food production in Mali and counter malnutrition, which is still widespread in the country.