Agriculture in Goundam

The Goundam circle of Timbuktu is among the most food-insecure areas in Mali. Due to the very low annual rainfall of 150-200mm, farmers practice recessional agriculture along river branches, ponds and lakes seasonally flooded by the Niger River. The amount of the flooding determines the amount of land under agriculture, which is highly variable from year to year. Yield levels under this cultivation system are low, with deep-water rice producing, on average, 750kg/ha, and sorghum from 600 to 900 kg/ha.

Africare’s work with village based small-scale irrigation schemes

In recent years, Africare has worked with local farmers to build village-based small-scale irrigation schemes of 30-35 hectares that can be irrigated by one diesel motor pump. Using these irrigation systems, farmers can maintain full water control and develop irrigated cropping systems with potential for much higher and more reliable yields than traditional recessional agriculture. 80-100 farmers share the land under irrigation in such schemes, thus the average irrigated crop area available per household is only about one-third of a hectare (0.83 acre). Obtaining maximum yield from these small landholdings is essential to reduce poverty in the area. Irrigation is one of the best ways to improve food security in the region. At 4-6 tons/ha, rice yields are much higher, and there is much potential and scope to both extend the amount of land under cultivation and to increase yields.

  1. Field Test Methodology

SRI - The System of Rice Intensification - is a methodology based on six principles of plant, soil, water and nutrient management that can increase yields significantly without relying on external inputs. The multiple benefits include, among others, a cost reduction by saving water (up to 50%), seeds (80-90%),  phytosanitary treatments, and fertilizer (50-100%), and  a yield increase of up 50-100%. For more details see Full Report, or Cornell University SRI Website.

In a farmer led test in Goundam, SRI yields achieved 9t/ha compared to 6.7 t/ha with the conventional methods, representing an 34% SRI yield increase. All yield parameters were significantly higher with SRI (Table 1). Download Full Report and preliminary Cost and Benefit Analysis.

The field owner was responsible for managing the field. Africare’s staff provided technical advice during field preparation, transplanting and crop management. Technical staff and farmers also collected data on crop development and at harvest. Villagers joined voluntarily to undertake the field work. Table 2 summarizes the methodology. 

This test was part of the Goundam Food Security Initiative, implemented by Africare and funded by USAID.

  1. Farmer Field Visits

SRI Field


  1. Download Report

  2.     English

  3.     Français

  4. SRI Cornell Website

  5. Contact Africare/Mali

  6. Home (Erika Styger)

  1. Background

During one of the SRI field visits, Mahamoudou Abdou, an elder from the village of Hara Hara (middle) told us how his father accidently stumbled across some of the SRI principles when Mahamoudou was a young man. That year, at the time of transplanting, most of the plants in the rice nursery were destroyed by grazing animals, and he was left with very few seedlings. He took his few seedlings and transplanted them singly and further apart, in order to cover his entire field. That season he obtained a remarkably higher yield. Mahamoudou’s visit to the SRI fields reminded him of this experience. When he told us his story, farmers listened intently -- there was absolute silence in the room. In discussions since then, Mr Abdou strongly encourages the farmers to try SRI and emphasizes the need to respect ALL the recommended technical parameters.

  1. Harvest

For both SRI and Control, 6 sample plots were harvested, each plot 2m x 2m (Picture 2). The plots were demarcated with a cord (Pic 1), plants cut individually at ground level and carried (Pic 3) to a big tarp (Pic 4). For each plant, the number of total tillers and number of fertile tillers was counted (Pic 5), and a sample of 10 panicles taken per plot. The harvest of each plot was threshed manually (pic 6 and 7), and grain weight was measured. After 3 weeks of air drying, dry grain weight was measured, which is reported as our harvest results. For the 10 panicles per plot, panicle length was measured, and number of grains counted per panicle. All the results are reported in Table 1 (at the top of this page).

  1. Field Development

Table 1: Results of farmer-led SRI test in Douegoussou, Timbuktu, Mali, 2007/2008, compared to

local cropping techniques (Control)

SRI Field: 18 December 2007, 139 days after nursery establishment

Control: 18 December 2007, 139 days after nursery establishment

Left:   Control plant 49 tillers;

Right: SRI plant 62 tillers, (at 69 days)

Table 2: Methodology of farmer-led SRI test in Douegoussou, Timbuktu, Mali, 2007/2008, compared to local cropping techniques (Control)

Farmers and technicians discussing technical SRI specifications

SRI field subject to alternate wetting and drying, reducing irrigation water needs

Farmers count tillers in SRI and Control plot

  1. How SRI might have been discovered in Mali: Mahamoudou Abdou’s Story

  1. The SRI Pioneers of Goundam

Come visit us next year for the latest SRI developments !

SRI Field: 18 December 2007, Close-up photo

SRI Field: 3 January 2008, 155 days after nursery establishment

Control: 18 December 2007, Close-up photo

Control: 3 January 2008, 155 days after nursery establishment

Mahamadou Hamadoun in his SRI field at harvest

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

First Experiences from Timbuktu - Mali

Farmer-led Test in Goundam 2007/2008