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Willem Stoop began investigating the advantages of introducing SRI into Mali and other West African countries in 1999 while working at West African Rice Development Association (now the African Rice Center). Although Norman Uphoff had discussions with World Vision/Mali and the government's Institute for Economic Research (IER) on setting up SRI trials in Mali in 2003, substantial progress with SRI began only in 2007 when Africare, an NGO working on agricultural and rural development, initiated SRI demonstration trials in the Timbuktu region. The experiments were managed by farmers in the Goundam district with technical assistance from Erika Styger, who learned about SRI while doing her PhD thesis research in Madagascar with CIIFAD.

During the 2007/2008 cropping season, Africare undertook a first demonstration of SRI in two villages. The yield increase using SRI was remarkable: 8.98 tons/hectare, 34% more than the best use of farmers’ rice planting methods (see report). The evaluation was expanded during the 2008/2009 season with support from the Better U Foundation. Average SRI yield of 53 farmers in 12 villages reached 9.1 t/ha. On average SRI yields were 66% higher compared to the control plots with 5.49 t/ha and 87% higher compared to the surrounding rice fields with 4.86 t/ha (see report). During 2010, participation of volunteer farmers in Africare's SRI projects increased to 270 farmers in 28 villages with an average yield of 7.71 t/ha compared to 4.48 t/ha in farmers’ usual practice fields (a 72% yield increase). An irrigation test showed that under SRI practices, water savings can be expected to be at least 32%.

Africare also began working to adapt SRI principles to wheat during 2009. The "System of Wheat Intensification" (SWI) showed potential for significantly increasing yields levels, by developing better direct-seeding techniques, reduce the spacing between plants, and by targeting the optimal planting time (see report).

During the 2009/2010 season, USAID’s Integrated Initiatives for Economic Growth in Mali (IICEM) project introduced SRI methods into irrigated areas of Gao, Mopti, and Timbuktu (not already reached by Africare) as well as rainfed rice systems in the Sikasso region, with consistent yield increases and reduction in chemical fertilizer use by farmers (see report). During May 2011, InterAction, a Washington D.C.-based alliance of NGOs, awarded Africare the Best Practice Award for Natural Resources Management and Adaptation to Climate Change for its SRI work in the Timbuktu Region. Also during 2011, Kokou Zotoglo, the rice value chain leader for USAID/West Africa’s Expanded Agribusiness and Trade Promotion (USAID E-ATP) program, and Djiguiba Koyaté, his counterpart at USAID/Mali’s Integrated Initiatives for Economic Growth in Mali (USAID IICEM), were given the “Tiwara” (“Lion of Work” in Bambara) award from government and civil society leaders in the Circle of San in the Ségou region for their work promoting SRI.

On November 14-18, 2011, a sub-regional SRI training workshop was organized by Africare Mali in Goundam (in Mali's Timbuktu Region) with participants from Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. During 2012-2013, a project carried out by the local NGO 3A-Sahel in conjunction with SRI Global and SRI-Rice at Cornell allowed 70 farmers in 7 villages to realize increases of 4.3 to 8 tons per hectare in spite of Mali's civil war during that year. Two additional phases followed in 2013 and 2014 that allowed additional scaling up to new villages and continuing support for the original villages. The final report notes that average yield increase of 63.36% over the usual farmer practice; 40 farmers were intensively trained, 166 received some training, and 71 received only minimal technical support.

During July 2012, the National Center of Specialization for Rice (NCOS Mali) at the Institut d'Économie Rurale (IER) co-organized a West Africa SRI Workshop in Burkina Faso that attracted 60 participants from 13 West African countries. The 3-year project, Improving and Scaling Up the System of Rice Intensification in West Africa (SRI-WAAPP), that evolved from the 2012 workshop formally began in 2014. SRI-WAAPP is an initiative of the World-Bank-funded West Africa Agricultural Projection Program (WAAPP). As of 2016, There are 115 sites where farmers have been trained in SRI methods by the project. (See map at right for locations). A Dec. 11 article in La Réussite Mali reports that SRI will contribute to an increase of 10% of the national rice production within ten years. This effort, assisted by the National System of Rice Intensification Program (PN-SRI) is expected to benefit 244,962 producers on one million hectares. In October 2021, the Adaptation Fund approved the SRI-based “Scaling up Climate Resilient Rice Production in West Africa” (RICOWAS) project which includes Mali and 12 other countries in the region.

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