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Celebrating International Year of Millets in Mali

Minister for Agriculture Calls for Strengthened Cooperation with ICRISAT

05 December 2023, AfricaAs part of global celebrations to mark the International Year of Millets 2023, ICRISAT opened the doors of its Samanko Research Station and regional hub for West and Central Africa for an engaging open field day on 2 November 2023. The occasion was honored by the presence of Mali’s Minister for Agriculture, Mr Lassine Dembélé.

In a brief opening ceremony, Dr Macdonald Bright Jumbo, Interim Director of ICRISAT in Mali, welcomed participants and highlighted the significance of the International Year of Millets as “

“This is an opportunity to promote the use of millets as crops that are resilient to climate change and invaluable sources of nutrition,” emphasized Dr Jumbo.

The open field day allowed visitors to explore new and improved millet seed varieties showcased in demonstration fields. Attendees also had the opportunity to witness demonstrations of improved practices in natural resource management, seed processing, storage, and aflatoxin management.

Dr Djeneba Konaté, Groundnut Breeder and the Manager of ICRISAT-Mali Pathology Lab, raised awareness about the critical issue of aflatoxins in the agri-food industry. She stressed the importance of good agronomic practices and tolerant varieties in reducing the risk of aflatoxin contamination, calling for a collective effort against this food safety threat.

“Aflatoxins are a group of mycotoxins that are highly toxic and dangerous to human and animal health. Agricultural products, especially groundnuts, are susceptible to contamination before, during, and after harvest,” explained Konaté.

“I am encouraging producers to use good agronomic practices and tolerant varieties. These practices can significantly contribute to reducing the risk of aflatoxin contamination. The battle against aflatoxin calls for everyone’s involvement. In addition and importantly, we seek the government’s support in this battle,” she said.

Ms Agathe Diama, Smart Food Coordinator (ICRISAT-West and Central Africa) presented the Smart Food initiative to participants, focusing on the nutritional potential of millets. Through an exhibition, featuring millet, sorghum, groundnut, and cowpea, she showcased recipes made with improved local varieties released in Mali and other West African countries. Ms Diama extended sincere gratitude to all partners, including the European Union, the World Food Programme, the Food Technology Laboratory of the Institute of Rural Economy (IER), for their contributions to the Smart Food initiative.

After touring the Smart Food exhibition, pathology lab, demonstration fields, and seed storage facilities, Minister Dembélé expressed his commitment to stronger cooperation with ICRISAT. The Agriculture Minister acknowledged the significant challenges posed by climate change in the Sahelian region. He emphasized the need to collaborate with international institutions like ICRISAT to make improved varieties more accessible to consumers.

“We are keen to collaborate closely with international institutions like ICRISAT to make improved varieties accessible to a broader audience. This is an opportunity to transform our agricultural production and integrate nutritious millet-based products into our culinary habits,” Minister Dembélé noted.

“This collaboration should focus on the use of improved varieties and how to make them available at scale to a great number of end users,” the Minister emphasized.

Director General of ICRISAT, Dr Jacqueline Hughes, welcomed Minister Dembélé’s calls for strengthened partnership.

“At ICRISAT, we understand the significant challenges posed by climate change in the Sahelian region and recognize that a collaborative approach is key to transforming agricultural production and integrating nutritious millet-based products into culinary habits.”

“We look forward to our relationship with the Government and people of Mali growing from strength to strength as we contribute to the shared goal of enhancing food security and promoting sustainable agriculture in the region,” Dr Hughes shared.

Supporting Local Development

Generous donations marked the day from ICRISAT through the ISSD-Sahel project, funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The IER received seed storage and cleaning equipment, and the Niono laboratory, facing electricity problems, was equipped with solar panels and batteries.

In addition to its technological innovations, ICRISAT is committed to capacity building through long and short-term training for producer organizations. Financial support from donors also enables numerous students to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees, further contributing to the growth of agricultural knowledge and expertise in the region, stated Dr. Jumbo, ICRISAT’s Interim Country Representative.

Diverse Participation

The event saw the active involvement of representatives from various CGIAR organizations hosted by ICRISAT, including CIFOR-ICRAF, ILRI, IITA, and WorldVeg. The Indian Embassy, the European Union, farmers, women farmers, cooperatives, and agricultural sector organizations from various regions of Mali also played a pivotal role in the celebrations.

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