Mali Cereals Research Description


My SMGP project is mixed methods research that draws on past experiences and current pursuits as a photographer, development worker, and agricultural economist to examine the issue of markets and food security in Mali.


In Mali, a farming household will traditionally market its agricultural products by simply selling to local traders. However, in other cases, farmers will enter into contractual relationships with farmer cooperatives or agribusiness such as traders and cereal processors in order to better link themselves to markets. My research seeks to explore how these different modes of market participation work, why value chain actors chose one approach over another, and the impacts that they have on household food security and other outcomes. As food security is a complicated and multi-orbed concept, my work touches on other related factors that contribute to food security in Mali, including climate variability, market systems, and conflict and coordination within agricultural value chains.


To study these issues, I spent the summer of 2014 examining three cereal value chains in Mali: millet and sorghum in the Segou region, maize in Sikasso and Koulikoro, and irrigated rice in the Niger Office zone of Segou. My approach was to use interviews and photography to document the activities, challenges, and commercial dynamics of different actors within these value chains, with a particular interest on farming households and their relationships with farmer cooperatives and commodity buyers.


The select photos displayed at today’s exhibit provide a cross-section of the value chain actors, activities, and issues that my research sought to understand.


I would like to thank the Howard G. Buffet Foundation and Texas A&M Center for Conflict and Development for their support in conducting this research. Additionally, I would also like to gratefully acknowledge the support of the Syngenta Foundation; the Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics Department at Michigan State University, and the African Studies Center at Michigan State University.


Finally, I would like to thank the hundreds of individuals in Mali who generously gave of their time in interviews, field visits, and photo shoots. My hope is that this work can make a small contribution to making their livelihoods better understood, and more profitable and resilient.