Seizing New Opportunities: Soil-fertility Management and Diverse Livelihoods in Mali
Soil-fertility is critical to an agricultural economy such as Mali. Whether in the dryland farming areas in the centre of the country, the cotton zone in the south, or the irrigated rice areas of the Office du Niger, much concern is expressed about the potential for land degradation as a result of soil-fertility decline. Thus, for example, the recently prepared national action programme to combat desertification notes the:
accelerating rate of soil erosion… and alarming desertification encroachment … [and the need] to impel a change of mentality and behaviour and ensure an efficient participation of the population and the various actors involved in the elaboration and implementation of programs on environmental protection/management. (Government of Mali, 1998, piii)
Studies carried out in association with the Soil-fertility Initiative speak of the:
worrying growth in soil degradation… the over-use of resources… stagnant or falling yields … growing food insecurity…. demographic growth and the irrational use of natural resources. (Gakou et al, 1996, p2)
But what do these generalized proclamations look like on the ground? How significant are they in different regions? What implications do they have for farmers?