A replicable micro agroecological center, in which plants are grown, traditional practices are collected, shared and enhanced by farmers
Violence and insecurity have escalated to unprecedented levels in parts of Burkina Faso, Mali, and western Niger. Expanding conflict is threatening lives and livelihoods, compounding food insecurity and malnutrition, and jeopardizing peace and social cohesion. Around 1.8 million people are facing critical food insecurity. As a working group, we are aware that for solving these complex issues in one of the poorest areas in the globe, firstly the current standard of growth and living in the Western countries must be questioned. On the field, only a coordinated, holistic approach will curb the current trend and lead to meaningful improvement in the lives of millions of people in the Sahel.
The PoliRural Cell (PRC) is a place composed by a nursery, a shared training center and micro experimental fields for Sahel communities. The vision behind it is the acknowledgment of dialogue between informal (farmer) and formal (academic) knowledge as a key point of growth for sustainable agriculture. From the nursery farmers produce fruit plants, trees to reforest, vegetables and useful plants. In the training centre, farmers share their traditional knowledge and learn more about technologies and scientific approach with academics and practitioners of agroecology. The micro experimental fields are used to show local and innovative agroecological techniques, in order to inspire farmers and practitioners for their own fields. Every center is managed by the communities, with the help of NGO’s, local university students, research centers. Each community can take advantage of the plants, the advice of the technical staff, and examples in the field. Just as health aid works through medical clinics, the center would function as an outpost, where local populations, can dialogue, implement and improve agroecology and ecosystem restoration practices. The long term goal is to ensure the Cell replicability, through "osmosis" processes between peasant communities.
Is this proposal for a practice or a project?
What actions do you propose?
The extensive degradation of soil and poor agricultural practices are a persistent threat to agriculture and food in the Sahel region. A holistic approach with the active involvement of local communities should be scaled-up. The following presents the idea of a PoliRural Cell, a people-oriented hub for sharing practices, empirical research and production of plants by communities in the Sahel region, for reshaping degraded landscapes and improving agroecological techniques for building climate-resilient agriculture. The word community means for us small rural villages and groups of them, or it can be a neighborhood in a bigger town.
The PRC will serve the community in many ways. These are the 3 different sectors in which it is structured.
Farmers will gather and discuss together traditional agroecological practices, talking about them with academics, practitioners and farmers coming from different areas, in order to co-create new solutions to overcome the climate challenge, based on traditional knowledge and empowered with scientific knowledge and advanced technologies if necessary. They will share their experience and learn more about agroecological design, planning, and practices. The consortium of organizations will ensure the presence of a coaching expert and academics/practitioners in agroecology in most of the meetings and will register and communicate the outputs through social media and dialogue with neighboring communities.
The outputs of these meetings in the training centre will target:
- How to increase water availability;
- How to reduce dependency on external inputs;
- How to design crop rotations systems;
- How to choose the right crop (in time and location);
- Agroforestry techniques;
- How to minimize soil disturbance;
- Local varietal selection and issues of seed quality;
- How to involve young unemployed in the agroecological field.
This will give the community a very pragmatic, field-based education. It will be a participatory, community-based educational method that combines the principles and practices from the community involved with external outputs.
NGO Staff, practitioners and academics, on their side, can use this new knowledge for research or implement it in other areas with the same approach.
Lab for Micro experimental fields
Farmers all over the world are all “doubting Thomas”. They see, then they believe the words coming from the mouth. Especially in harsh conditions, farmers will not trust easily experts or professionals if they don’t have results in front of them. On the other hand, academics and practitioners need well-designed experiments to achieve their goals.
The micro experimental fields of the Cell will show the continuous evolution of the sharing training centre output: in small patches (around 10m x 10m minimum), farmers will show their practices and local innovations, academics will bring their knowledge and try to merge it, when it's possible, with the traditional knowledge. These standing examples of agroforestry and agroecology will motivate neighboring farmers in innovating in order to be resilient to the changing climate, planting different varieties of trees for fruits, wood, and fodder. As an example, practices like zai pits, or agroforestry practices like the example of Tony Rinaudo in Niger would be studied together and implemented/innovated by local farmers. Also, other practices, from food storage to fertilization, could be shown. The continuous and independent flow of co-creation will be the ultimate goal of the PoliRural Cell.
The core of the PoliRuralCell is a plant nursery where trees, bushes, and greens are grown for the community. Women and children will be actively involved in this sector, making them gain experience and knowledge on the basis of plant propagation. It is essential to invest in future generations, also with the aim of transmitting knowledge and informal training, and in women, often marginalized by the processes of change.
The size of the nursery depends on the size of the community and the funding available. The goal is to grow plants and trees that can give the community food, fodder, wood, medicine and can be used for ecosystem restoration and stop soil degradation (on slopes, in arid areas etc..)
The coaching scheme
The goal of the PoliRural Cell is to rise, with a bottom-up process, the resiliency and food sovereignty in struggling communities of Sahel. Farmers here have been living in harsh conditions for a thousand years. The PoliRural Cell wants to empower the already strong knowledge of the locals and speed up the adaptation process. The presence of academics and practitioners will be limited to a "coaching scheme", where in peer to peer sessions agroecological practices will be discussed together, to see if there is room for improvement and innovation. The nursery will be a landmark for the community. The type of plants (fruit trees, legume trees, native shrubs, vegetables) will change following the needs of the local farmers. What academics and western practitioners can bring are experiences and technologies outside of the community.In addition, the center will work to identify and promote technological innovations that can be made available to the local communities to ensure the improvement and dissemination of good practices. What’s most important, the judging process on innovation will always be in the hands of the indigenous people.
Who will take these actions?
The leading group of the PRC project will be Briciole (Crumbs) is an italian indipendent humanitarian association founded in Puglia, Italy in 2017. Currently operates in Bamako, Mali, for the education of children with "ABC - A book for a child" action and many other projects. 
The rural commune of Tiakadougou-Dialakoro is located 120 kilometers southwest of Bamako, capital of Mali, towards Guinea. It is made up of 9 villages (Dialakoro, Neneko, Siramana, Bayaba, Mandiela, Ouaramandiana, Maniaga, Djiguimbaly and Kamaneguela). The chief town of the municipality is the village of Dialakoro. This will be the pilot community for the first PRC.
Association Afoulki Mali
The association is 100% under Malian law and the head office is based in Neneko.
The objective is mainly the development in the commune of Tiakadougou-Dialakoro of schooling, access to drinking water, electricity, food, development of agriculture, livestock farming, fish farming, etc. The association will liaison with the local authorities.
Association "Children of Neneko"
The association '' The children of Neneko '' was created in 08/2010 by Karl Babin, French. The head office is based in Cognac (France) and has an office in Bamako (Mali) headed by Karl Babin, resident since 2013 in Bamako. It has allowed the construction of schools, support for the schooling of children and mainly girls, the realization of boreholes for drinking water, etc. This association will monitoring the practical activities.
Luzzart – Syncretic Agency is an association founded in Italy, designing and organizing cultural and social projects, building of networks with local communities and testing services to start-up new entrepreneurial activities. Since 2017 it is a member of the international network "FOP (Future of Our Past) Euro-Mediterranean Collaborative"; and cooperates for projects on peace and development in the Mediterranean Area and in Mali. Luzzart will work for mobilising funding in Europe for PRC
QG Enviro (founded in 2017), works in Italy and Europe on innovation projects and agroecological design. This group will set up the structure of the PRC and develop the methodologies for it.
Research institutions- the project will work with regional and european Research Institutes to offer collaboration and peers for the training center. The research institution will offer also, if necessary, hands-on training in selected farmers’ fields. The research institutions will also offer training for experts involved in the projects.
QG Enviro, Briciole Sincretiche and Luzzart's role will also include:
- Direction of the overall project in the start-up phase.
- Identification of potential risks;
- Assessment and monitoring;
- Mobilization of partnerships to ensure effective project implementation;
- Coordination of design and execution of community-level mobilization.
Where will these actions be taken?
With the red tag, the location of the Tiakadougou – Dialakoro community in Mali, selected for the prototype.
Tiakadougou – Dialakoro community
The rural community of Tiakadougou – Dialakoro is located in the South- East120 km away from Bamako, the capital city of Mali, towards Guinea. It is a community of 9 villages (Dialakoro, Nènèko, Siramana, Bayaba, Mandiela, Ouaramandiana, Maniaga, Djiguimbaly and Kamaneguela).
Dialakoro is the administrative centre. Nènèko, Maniaga and Dialakoro are on the route of national road that connect with Sèlinguè. The community is placed on a 32'000 hectares area, crossed by the Sankarani river. There are 12'000 people living in the 9 villages.
We selected this area for various reasons:
- We are already in contact with the local authorities and they showed great interest for the project idea;
- The area is in the southern part of Mali, that is safer and more stable than other areas;
- There are only 2 hours from Bamako and the road is in average in very good conditions.
- There are hotels and structures for guests and consultants;
- Some of the partners of the consortium already cooperate with local authorities and communities for sustainable development projects.
All of these points made Tiakadougou – Dialakoro community perfectly suited to host the prototype of the PRC.
In the future, the goal is to create new PRC’s in different areas of the Sahel, where it’s possible. As an example, the northern part of Mali is the most affected from desertification processes, but the conflicts between different groups make these regions not safe for international staff. It will be important to train farmers and experts from these regions in more safe areas, in order to reach the most vulnerable communities in the North.
In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.
No country selected
No country selected
No country selected
No country selected
What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
- Mitigation: as the IPCC report on forest says (Chapter 9), " Within each region, local solutions have to be found that optimize all goals and aim at integrated and sustainable land use". The assessment of the mitigation measures is difficult because they need to take into account the regional and local aspects. For sure, tree planting, soil conservation and agroecological practices in the Sahel region will contribute to biodiversity conservation. It will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the rate of trees cover and reducing the rate of cutting trees for domestic use. It will eventually contribute to building up carbon stocks and reducing global warming at a local scale. In a business as usual scenario, Sahel region is not one of the main regions of CO2 emissions, while it can play a big role in carbon stock, because there are vast areas that can be restored with ecosystem restoration. A good example of the work can be done comes from the Australian agronomist Tony Rinaudo in West Africa.
- Adaptation: Agroforestal systems can help small communities adapt to heat waves and prolonged droughts, with more water and organic matter stored in the soil. The use of drought resistant varieties can give smallholder farmers an income even in the harsher times, while educating children and women in the school of the PRC can help recycle and reuse materials for fodder and domestic uses. The PRC itself can be a centre for adapting to a changing climate. One functioning PRC in Bamako, Mali, in 5 years can train hundreds of farmers, children and women on how to adapt to a changing climate, providing also assistance and tools for the implementation of agroecological practices.
What are other key benefits?
A PoliRural Cell can have greater positive effects for economy and society in the Sahel region. This project will contribute to the empowerment and improvement of the socio-economic conditions of indigenous families. Overall, a community with a working PRC can benefit with the creation of new farms, a greater resilience to extreme events such as droughts or heavy rains, a better social cohesion and better living conditions.
A training centre for agroecology means men, women and children are empowered to fight and adapt in a climate changing world.
Mali, for example, have a National Climate Action Plan that focus on strengthening institutional capacities to implement adaptation strategies at the national, regional, and local levels, recognizing the need to build the capacity of local governing entities and speed up the decentralization process initiated many years ago . The PoliRural Cell can be actor of change at a local level.
Nursery can act also as a school for kids, learning the process of growing plants, and can be a valued reservoir of agricultural and forestal genetic diversity for the communities. Different fruits bearing in different seasons can bring to families more economical stability during the dry season, likewise trees for fodder and wood.
Lab for Micro experimental fields
Agroecology and agroforestry can be actors of change in the Sahel region. A community working on it will be ready to face the changing climate. That’s why the laboratory will give strong impulse to a resilient agriculture and economy. Locals that will become “experts” on some techniques will be motivated to travel around and get paid to share their knowledge. Young people can be motivated to join school and university to learn more about agriculture and life sciences.
In Mali and many other countries in Africa, there’s a growing number of young people that is unemployed. The PRC can play a crucial role for this group, making them more aware about the opportunities of sustainable agriculture and the role of education as empowerment for their lives.
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
- Economic costs
Here it is an estimated budget for the prototype of PRC in the Tiakadougou – Dialakoro community. It will be a micro center, with a single building for the training center, a nursery of 1000 plants (vegetables and trees) in a place protected from winds and animals, some micro experimental patches, 5 – 6 different patches of 100 square meters each one.
3 years – budget for the first PRC in Bamako
With the same amount of the prize of the Climate CoLab contest (10'000 USD - 8932 EUR), the team consider would be of primary importance to conduct a feasibility study on the field, in order to meet with local farmers, academics and practitioners and assess the real feasibility of the PRC in Mali.
2. Implementation costs
The main budget inputs considered for the 1st year are:
- 2 International Consultants salary
- 1 Local Cell Manager salary
- 1 Local Cell (Nursery) Assistant salary
- 1 Local Cell (Traning Centre) Assistant salary
PRC Training centre, micro experimental fields, nursery
- Implementation of nursery
- Implementation of the training Centre
- Local Experts and Academics costs
- Implementation of micro experimental patches
- At least 1000 saplings and vegetables for the nursery
Capacity building & Community development
- Communication of results
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Lobby & Advocacy actions
The total for the 1st year is 104'000 US Dollars
- 64'000 US Dollars for the 2nd year;
- 44'000 US Dollars for the 3rd year.
For a total of 212'000 US Dollars in 3 years
After the first year the costs decrease because there will be only 1 international consultant, that in the 3rd year will work part time. The goal of the PRC is to empower communities and make them manage by themselves the PRC. When they are ready, around 4 or 5 years, the consortium of organizations will work only as external assistance. To support the sustainability of the project in the long term, the PRC will be able to organize workshops and visits for foreign researchers, entrepreneurs and interns, thus contributing also to favoring the local economy.
- Negative side effects
The PRC can be difficult to be accepted by locals, if firstly it’s not built a trust exchange with the experts and NGOs. Practices different from the old and local ones can be also difficult to spread, if their value is not shown to smallholder farmers.
- Challenge of implementing the actions
Logistics in creating and running a PRC can be a real challenge, especially in areas poorly served with infrastructures. Also finding volunteers and experts for the management can be an obstacle. Also climatic conditions can be challenging, especially in March, April and May with very hot weather, then in July and August for the raining season. Working in these two periods may result difficult and operations will slow down.
Short - Term (1 – 15yrs)
Funding from Foundations and/or Crowdfunding for the first PRC.
Training for 500 farmers in 15 years
Regional Impact, with big patches of land in the Tiakadougou – Dialakoro region restored and working as agroecological examples for neighbouring regions. Possibility of opening another PRC in another area around Bamako.
Medium - Term (15 – 50 yrs)
Building of other 3 PRCs, working on bigger communities and other regions outside Mali (Niger, Mauritania). Different countries are involved, with vaste areas restored by restoration projects and fields working on agroforestry and agroecology. At least 3'000 farmers and practitioners will get training and motivation from the PRCs.
Long -Term (after 50 years)
Maintaining a network of 7 to 10 PRCs in Africa. Continental Impact, PRCs create a strong number (more than 10'000) of people trained in the agroecological field. Vast areas around the Sahel region, are restored, conserve biodiversity and sustain local populations with food and other products. Many farmers and practitioners, involved in the first years, travel around the continent (and hopefully outside), to empower new communities and share the values of the PRCells.
About the author(s)
Giuseppe Scandone, Italy
I worked in the environmental field in Italy, as an employee, a consultant and as a founder of a not for profit for the last 4 years. I started my adventure with QG Enviro no profit in 2017; since then we tried our best to educate kids and adults about sustainability and to act concretely in agroecological projects. I’m now part of different programs (Medywat from the World Bank, Changemakerxchange from Bosch and Ashoka). I take care of the agroecological and environmental aspects of the PRC.
Luca Palazzo, Italy and Mali
I have 15 years of work experience in different International Organizations, private companies and NGOs as Project Manager, Business Process Analyst and Innovation Specialist. I am able to lead projects to re engineering business procedures for NGOs, United Nations and private companies; to empower local communities’ involvement, women entrepreneurship and child protection; to design and manage international conferences, cultural, social and touristic activities; to support people towards their personal and professional path.
Luca Taurino, Italy
I hold a Master's Degree in Eastern studies, and I've been working as a social operator with migrants in Italy in the last 15 years with many other professional experiences, such as three years as a teacher at the Italian Embassy in Tirana, Albania. I'll be in charge of monitoring the project I will be in charge of supporting project monitoring and of the PR in Italy and abroad, in order to leverage attention and funding on the PRC.; I'll be in charge of monitoring the project and of the PR in Italy and abroad, in order to leverage attention and funding on the PRC.
These two proposals are the closest to the PRC idea, because of the community based approach and the efforts made on training and education.
 UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Report 2018
 Zamudio, A. N. 2016. Review of current and planned adaptation action in Mali. CARIAA Working Paper no. 11. International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada and UK Aid, London, United Kingdom
 Agroforestry systems and food security in the sahel: the case of Toukar, Senegal
 Nabuurs, G.J., O. Masera, K. Andrasko, P. Benitez-Ponce, R. Boer, M. Dutschke, E. Elsiddig, J. Ford-Robertson, P. Frumhoff, T. Karjalainen, O. Krankina, W.A. Kurz, M. Matsumoto, W. Oyhantcabal, N.H. Ravindranath, M.J. Sanz Sanchez, X. Zhang, 2007: Forestry. In Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [B. Metz, O.R. Davidson, P.R. Bosch, R. Dave, L.A. Meyer (eds)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
About zai pits: http://www.unep.or.jp/ietc/publications/techpublications/techpub-8a/zay.asp