This article aims to shed light on the conditions under which family farmers in developing countries could be able to invest and develop. This question is of particular interest in the Office du Niger area in Mali because, since 2006, the Malian government has been seeking to attract new investors there, under the assumption that they will be more able than family farmers to develop agriculture. On the other hand, the main union of family farmers in this area promotes investment by family farmers themselves. Based on the farming system concept, a thorough field survey was carried out, combining quantitative and qualitative methods for data collection and processing. The data analysis shows that access to properly irrigated land, and access to short and medium-term credit to purchase inputs and equipment, are currently the main factors limiting farm productivity and investment capacities. The study suggests that for agriculture to develop in Mali, the peasant way is fully credible.
Acknowledgement: we wish to thank the anonymous reviewer for his/her very relevant comments on an earlier draft of this paper. The remaining shortcomings are our sole responsibility.