The study area includes the research station of Farako, managed by IER (Institute d’Economie Rurale) and a group of around five villages surrounding the village of Zoumana Diassa. The area is historically considered one of the country's main agricultural production zones, with cotton and peanuts widely promoted as cash crops during colonial times. Cotton has remained central to farmers’ income, with decades of governmental promotion and the establishment of CMDT (Compagnie malienne pour le développement des textiles) in 1974, which focuses on the productivity of cotton and has a system of rural extension that has been one of the primary sources of innovation and information for farmers in the area. A number of NGOs and IER have also developed different interventions in the last couple of decades. IER is a government institution which maintained the pre-colonial name (Institute of rural economy) and has a regional seat in Sikasso. It runs the research station of Farako since colonial times, with around 400 ha available mainly for agricultural and forestry research trials.
About the area
Politically, the study site lies within the county of Sikasso, the second largest city in the country and one of Mali’s main agricultural production centres. The study site villages are between 40 and 50 km from Sikasso.
The area in the transition between Sudano-Sahelian and Sudanian climate zones, also considered as tropical savannah (Aw) in the Köppen-Geiger climate classification. The landscape is dominated by a mosaic of savannah and agricultural parkland in a traditional agroforestry system. The most common trees are:
- Shea (Vitellaria paradoxa),
- Néré (Parkia biglobosa) and
- Baobab (Adansonia digitata), to a lesser degree
- Other woody species from the genus Combretum, Detarium and others.
There is a considerable large regeneration of Piliostigma reticulatum and Guiera. The main crops are cotton (as a cash crop), maize, sorghum, peanut and millet. Between the study site and Sikasso there are also the so called “bas-fond” areas: lowlands temporarily flooded during the rainy season where rice is produced, and where potatoes are planted in the dry season.
Annual rainfall: 800 – 1000 mm
Population density: 53/km2 (Sikasso county)
Main ethnic groups: Senoufo (around 80%), Fulani, Bambara
Study site approximate area: 200 to 250 km2
Agricultural land: Not available, but a naked eye estimation based on the satellite images allows a guess of 60 to 80% for the specific study area
Livestock density: Not available for the specific study areaarea, but for the county of Sikasso (15,375 Km2) there are an estimated population of 408,000 cows, 188,000 sheep and 112,000 goats
- Assessment of effect of trees on soil and crops yields on a landscape level using remote sensing and modelling;
- living fences of local bushes;
- to be determined…