The Sahara’s mighty sands and fierce temperatures may extend over half of the territory of Mali, however these unforgiving desert conditions are not slowing down the country when it comes to agricultural production. In a country where even the slightest fluctuations in climate could lead to acute food insecurity, mastering the art of agriculture under harsh conditions remains essential.

That is why these days, Malians are farming smarter and adopting new technologies to boost crop yields and revenues. With the help of the West African Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP), over 175,000 Malian farmers have been able to revitalize their productivity through the planting of higher yielding rice varieties and more pest resistant tomatoes, the use of an adapted seed drill to economize seeds, and the production of siloed corn to feed livestock thus increasing their milk production.

 “The completion report for the first phase of the WAAPP revealed that these farmers have been able to enhance their productivity by on average 30% and their revenues by 34%. The period between two harvests has also been shortened, a result which is already having a significant impact,” explains Abdoulaye Touré, the World Bank WAAPP Task Team Leader in charge of the program.

With the support of the project, Mali is strengthening its seed systems as well as its research and technology transfer systems in order to provide comprehensive support for the implementation of the National Agricultural Investment Program and to boost the resilience of farming and pastoral communities. The integrated subregional aspect of the program, which constitutes one of the program’s biggest strengths, also enables Mali to benefit from innovative technologies and techniques developed in the other WAAPP beneficiary countries.

One of these innovative techniques is the introduction of new more resilient varieties of tomatoes. According to Ibrahima Diakite, President of the Regional Commission for Users of Agricultural Research Findings in Mali, “these new varieties allow us to maintain our production yields during the rainy season, when tomatoes are in short supply in the markets and command a higher price.” The possibility of producing crops year round has proved to be a real advantage for Malian farmers.

Farmers also benefit from training, study tours, knowledge exchanges between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) stakeholders, and equipment prototypes during exchange visits, all of which help strengthen of their technical capacities.

Initially launched with a pilot phase in three countries (Mali, Senegal, and Ghana), the WAAPP is now being implemented in 13 of the 15 countries of the ECOWAS. As the first phase of the project in Mali concluded satisfactorily, the World Bank approved financing for a second phase totaling $60 million.

The additional WAAPP financing will be used to scale up the production, dissemination, and adoption of improved technologies with respect to the priority agricultural products in the participant countries. For Mali in particular, this second phase will also help restore the productive capacities of communities in northern Mali who have been greatly affected by the crisis. Targeted subsidies will be used to provide these communities with input kits, nucleus breeding programs, motor-pumps, and grafted jujube trees and date palm plants.

Despite having been approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors in June 2013, this new phase was not able to launch before July 11, 2014 given the political and institutional situation in the country.

“In light of the outcomes obtained through the commitment of researchers, agricultural extension workers, and agricultural producers, I am confident that the large-scale dissemination of these technologies will allow our agricultural sector to achieve the 6% growth target,” enthused Moussa Mara, the Prime Minister of Mali, at the launch of the second phase of the program in Bamako.

The WAAPP is key to the World Bank’s support strategy for Mali and in its support for increased regional integration in West Africa. In addition, “it is firmly anchored in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the ECOWAS agricultural policy,” added Paul Noumba Um, the World Bank Country Director for Mali.