Communities located along the Niger River have very little rainfall—averaging only 150 to 200 mm annually (averages in
coastal countries in West Africa are about 1600 mm1
). Moreover, high climatic variability can significantly raise or lower these
levels. Because rice and other crop production depends primarily on the recessional floodwater of the Niger and its branches,
food security suffers dramatically in dry years. Annual rice yields under this recessional production system average less than
one ton per hectare. In contrast, controlled irrigation systems—where water is pumped or diverted via canals into a paddy—
produce considerably higher yields—an average of four tons per hectare.
Africare has been active in the Timbuktu region since 1997. Working with villages in the cercles (or districts) of Goundam
and Diré, the NGO has helped develop village-based, small-scale irrigation schemes, or Perimètres Irrigués Villageois (PIVs) of
about 35 hectares, each irrigated with a small diesel-powered pump. Because the area is shared by as many as 100 farmers,
each household on average has access to only a third of a hectare (0.83 acres) on which to produce rice under controlled
irrigation conditions. With this small share of the PIV, most farmers also rely on recessional production. Still, boosting yields
on these small, irrigated parcels enables the farmers of Goundam and Diré to create a food security buffer in dry years.

In 2007, Africare launched the Timbuktu Food Security Initiative.2
The NGO’s agronomist, a government agronomist and
several village-based field agents worked with local rice producers to launch a farmer-led pilot project evaluating SRI in two
Originally developed in Madagascar in the early 1980s, SRI is an impressive production system, with farmers in the Southern
African country regularly attaining yields of 7 to 15 tons per hectare —a significant increase from the national average of two
tons per hectare. In the past 30 years, the system has been adopted by over 20,000 Madagascar farmers and has spread to
more than two-dozen countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.


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