Aly Ibrahim | June 21, 2021
N’tji Diarra lives on the income he earns from the lettuce, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables he grows in his 400-square-metre garden along the Niger River in Koulikoro Region, Mali. He earns about 30,000 FCFA ($55.45 US) per day selling his produce. But over the past few years, farmers in Mali have been confronted with many challenges due to the increasing heat. Mr. Diarra has resorted to producing only in the rainy season, but this is when pests are more common. He uses a liquid insecticide, diluting it and spraying his garden to manage the pests. He starts spraying when plants begin to sprout and continues until they start flowering. Three months before harvest, he stops using the product to avoid leaving residues on the crops when he sells them. But he continues to water his garden. Experts say that farmers should consider using drip irrigation so they can grow vegetables in both the dry and rainy seasons.
It’s a Tuesday morning and N’tji Diarra is in his 400-square-metre garden along the Niger River in Katibougou, in the Koulikoro Region of Mali. Mr. Diarra is a market gardener who produces lettuce, carrots, potatoes, and other vegetables. He earns about 30,000 FCFA ($55.45 US) per day by selling his harvest.
Like other producers, Mr. Diarra lives on the income he earns from his vegetables. But over the past few years, farmers in Mali have been confronted with many challenges due to the increasing heat. Insects such as flies and wireworms also threaten their harvests.
To overcome these challenges, Mr. Diarra has adopted new practices, including using pesticides. Also, because of rising temperatures and a lack of water, he no longer grows throughout the year, instead waiting for the rainy season. During the rainy season, he says, it’s cooler and there is more rain available to water the plants.
To fight against insect pests, he sprays a product that kills them. He pours liquid into a sprayer, adds water to dilute it, shakes to ensure it’s well-mixed and sprays his garden. Mr. Diarra starts spraying when the plants begin to sprout and continues until they finish flowering. Three months before harvest, he stops using the product to avoid leaving residues in the crops he sells. But he continues to water his garden.
Nassam Diarra has been a market gardener in Baguineda, in the Koulikoro region, for about 15 years. He is also facing the challenges of heat and insects. He explains, “To lessen the effects of heat on my plants, I water my garden three times a day. I pour at least two litres of water per plant using a watering can.”
Tiecoura Traoré is a specialist in market gardening and the operations manager for a project called JeGe Ni JaBa, run by an NGO called ICCO/CORBAID. He says that watering plants two or three times a day helps them resist the heat.
Mr. Traoré says that insect pests are more of a problem in the rainy season than the dry season. He encourages farmers to adopt new water management practices that allow them to produce throughout the year, rather than just in the rainy season. This includes drip irrigation, a method suitable for arid areas because it uses much less water than other types of irrigation.
Drip irrigation consists of distributing water to the garden through a network of pipes under low pressure. This supplies water at low flow rates of between 2 and 12 litres per hour. Water is distributed through small holes in the pipes, measuring 1 to 1.5 milimetres.
For those watering by hand, Mr. Traoré advises growers to water their gardens very early in the morning and in the evening around 5 p.m. He advises against watering the plants around noon because it is already hot and consequently the water evaporates more quickly.
This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project.
Photo: Anna Paulo in her cabbage field in Langali village near Morogoro, Tanzania on May 28, 2014.