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Promoting Bambara groundnut, fonio, and native vegetables for resilience and nutrition in Mali

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Increasingly arid conditions and a shortening rainy season are challenging agricultural production in Mali and exacerbating existing issues with chronic food insecurity and malnutrition. Native traditional crops are well-adapted to local growing conditions and can help secure production under climate change but they have received little attention from research and development efforts, which have focused on a narrow basket of commodities mostly introduced from outside of Africa. Traditional crops face numerous constraints to enhance their use, but with some attention they could play key roles in diversifying agriculture and food systems for better nutrition and resilience.

Unleashing multiple benefits from neglected African crops

The Project “Linking agrobiodiversity value chains, climate adaptation and nutrition:
Empowering the poor to manage risk” aimed to strengthen the capacities of farmers to manage risks associated with climate change, poor nutrition status, and economic disempowerment by leveraging local agrobiodiversity. From 2015 to 2019, the Project in Mali focused on fonio (Digitaria exilis), Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea), jute mallow (Corchorus olitorius) and leaf amaranth (Amaranthus sp., e.g. A. dubius, A. hybridus, and A. hypochondriacus) which stood out among other crops as strong assets to improve climate change adaptation, nutrition, and income opportunities. A holistic value chain approach addressing multiple bottlenecks in supply and demand wasapplied to promote more use of these crops.
Activities sought specially to strengthen their seed systems, cultivation, and processing, as well as to connect producers to markets to enhance and multiply impacts for food security, conservation, profitability, and women’ empowerment.

Strengthening seed access

No improved variety of Bambara groundnut is available in Mali and although seven improved fonio varieties have been released, their adoption is low. The cultivation of these crops relies on the informal seed system, for which seed exchanges can be limited geographically or within kinship networks with variable seed quality. A community biodiversity management approach