Mali farmers fight drought with hybrid crops

Climate change brings wilder weather in the Sahel. Photo: RR

NEWSROOM (ADV) – Last year, when drought hit in the middle of the growing season in his region of southern Mali, Baba Berthé lost his entire two-hectare maize crop. “I harvested nothing at all,” remembers the white-robed farmer with a greying goatee.

But disaster was averted when a plot of drought-resistant sorghum he had also planted flourished despite a lack of water.

That crop “saved me,” producing 2.4 tonnes of grain from one hectare (2.5 acres) of land, said the farmer from rural Siby district.

As climate change brings wilder weather in the Sahel – particularly worsening drought – planting crops able to stand up to extremes can help avert a range of crises, from worsening hunger to migration, experts say.

In southern Mali, hardier crops are gaining ground, particularly as farmers see the results in their own fields, they say.

In previous years, farmers would simply use the seeds from one harvest to plant the next season’s crop.

But the hybrid qualities of the new varieties reduce over time, Siby farmer N’fally Coulibaly said, which means he and other farmers would like to buy new seed each year.

“The problem with the new varieties is that they are not free, and just before the rainy season we don’t have any money. It wasn’t like that before,” Coulibaly said.

Another problem, he said, is the shortage of information about the characteristics of the new varieties – and the bad publicity that accompanied their introduction.

© Bur-csa – A.H / S.E – African Daily Voice (ADV)