Land policy, family farms, food production and livelihoods in the Office du Niger area, Mali

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Laurence Roudart and Benoit Dave


The objective of this paper is to analyze: 1) the policy conditions under which family farms in the Office du Niger area could invest in land; 2) the impacts of various scenarios of land and other policies; 3) the opportunity costs of allocating land and irrigation water to players other than family farmers. A thorough field survey, based on the concept of farming system and combining quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and processing, was carried out in 2011 involving 380 family farm managers. Models were elaborated from the numerical data. Results indicate that family farmers could invest in land under the following conditions: that they possess an animal-drawn or a motorized piece of equipment, engage in at least one dry-season crop, obtain relatively high yields and have access to irrigated areas more extensive than in 2010. To meet these conditions, proactive policies, pertaining to land, irrigation, credit and inputs are required. Allotting new irrigated land to family farmers could, according to one policy scenario, lead to the creation of tens of thousands of farm jobs and livelihoods. This could, according to another scenario, lead to hundreds of thousands of additional tonnes of rice, thereby exceeding the threshold of grain self-sufficiency. Thus, the opportunity costs of allocating land and irrigation water to investors other than farming families are particularly high.


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