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Building Livelihoods on the Front Lines of Climate Change: Identifying Market Opportunities and Agricultural Value Chains in the Sahel Regions of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali

Building Livelihoods on the Front Lines of Climate Change: Identifying Market Opportunities and Agricultural Value Chains in the Sahel Regions of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali   

This report assesses various market opportunities in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. It examines priority crop, livestock and forestry value chains for men and women. It also identifies barriers to inclusion and opportunities for full participation.

Catholic Relief Services commissioned Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy to write this report. The project is part of the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) program funded by DFID.

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Executive summary

Catholic Relief Services commissioned Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy to complete this report as part of a series of studies to inform new activities under CRS’ Consortium SUR1M initiative. SUR1M is one of 10 projects across the Sahel Region provisionally approved by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) funded Building Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) umbrella program. The report assesses different market opportunities and examines priority crop, livestock, and forestry value chains for men and women. It identifies barriers to and opportunities for men and women’s full participation or inclusion and offers strategies to overcome identified barriers.

Recommendations are proposed, based on a 45-day study in three targeted countries in the Sahel region that show a high vulnerability to food insecurity: Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali. SURIM will leverage the results of this study to ensure that the market opportunities and value chains promoted in the program phase will offer opportunities for both men and women to participate. The study covers 20 villages in 16 communes in the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso, the Tillaberi Region of Niger, and the Gao Region of Mali, using key informant interviews (KII), focus group discussions (FGD), and a structured Village Leaders Survey (VLS).

Key findings

A total of 347 participants attended 20 FGDs across the three study sites, of which women comprised 56.8 percent. A total of 27 key informant interviews (KII) were conducted, of which only one was a woman (3.7 percent).

Market opportunities identification—agricultural crops

Sesame is identified as the most frequently marketed crop in Burkina Faso and Niger, while participants in Mali exclusively grew vegetables for the market, due to their proximity to the Niger River and access to water. Groundnuts and cowpeas were also highly cited as market crops in both Burkina Faso and Niger. Among women, the most frequently grown market crops, in addition to vegetables, include sesame, cowpeas, okra (gombo), and hibiscus. The principal crops grown by men are millet, sorghum, and cowpeas.

Crop sales generally take place during the harvest season; this is when there liquid assets are needed to manage debts that have been assumed during the lean hunger season – a time when food stocks are low. In the study sample, 50 percent of crop sales occurred during the harvest season, while 35 percent was sold in the dry season prior to the lean hunger period.

Value chain integration and credit access

There is very poor articulation amongst producers and service providers interviewed in the crop value chains, thus very weak vertical integration. This entails, most importantly, the universal absence of any formal or de jure contractual arrangements among producers, buyers, collectors, wholesalers, or other actors interviewed in the value chain. Credit provisioning or access, for borrowing or lending purposes, occurs almost exclusively in kind, in the form of crop payments, rather than cash. Micro-credit institutions are ubiquitously absent, thus, producers and value chain service providers rely on informal kin and non-kin networks to secure loans for economic transactions and business operations.

There is a widespread lack of knowledge and ability on how to obtain basic farm inputs, including improved seed, fertilizer, pesticides, farm implements, etc. Furthermore, producers do not have the agronomic training on technical/time sensitivity know-how on planting particular improved seed varieties, nor on growing conditions in terms of water, soil, and other biophysical requirements.

A lack of credit and financing business operations was consistently cited as the key constraint to improving business activity among crop wholesalers and collectors.

Market opportunities identification—livestock

Intensive animal fattening is a primary commercial activity, with at least 84 percent of production sold in local markets. Poultry production (chickens) ranks high as a viable income earning activity among women, with 75 percent being sold. Customary grazing of sheep and goats as an income-generating activity (IGA) is fairly widespread, along with intensive feeding of sheep, goats and cows. Structural barriers identified for crop value chains also cause challenges for livestock, small ruminant, and poultry value chains.


The underlying structural dimensions and intersecting segments of viable, functioning market systems must be addressed if interventions are to have a lasting effect. In order to build viable market opportunities in the region, the following structural pillars must be in place:

Agro-input supply For viable crop and commodity markets to function efficiently, commercially viable micro-enterprises must be present; these include private sector and community-based producer groups, amongst others, and they should be capable of providing smallholders with a range of inputs.

Agricultural extension and training New innovative models of agricultural extension and training have been piloted in many programs and should be considered for replication and scale up under SUR1M. These include communitybased Lead/Master Farmer models, Farmer Field Schools, and agro-input dealers providing farmers with a range of products and services. Some examples of these products and services include agronomic training in the use of improved seed varieties, improved methods of soil and water conservation, and the use of agricultural water management technologies.

Market information systems Farmers need access to timely pricing information, delivered through effective communication channels, including local radio, village market information kiosks, and cell phone technology. Resources should be mobilized to design new innovative instruments for the dissemination of market information to local producer groups.

Post-harvest management Improved crop storage technology is notably absent throughout the communities visited. A well designed system of inventory credit and warehouse receipting (‘warrantage’), tied to community cereal banks with improved storage facilities for warehousing crops, would enable producers to address multiple obstacles that they are confronting. Such obstacles include a lack of micro-credit and operating capital for farm production, lack of access to improved seed, fertilizer, and pesticides, poor crop storage facilities, and a community grain reserve to buffer the most vulnerable through periods of acute scarcity of food supply.

Production Clusters Smallholders should organize as production clusters or units within a larger region and build a critical mass or economy of scale, vastly improving their ability to organize themselves and leverage resources needed to collect, sort, grade, bulk, and transport crops to area markets.

Market opportunities for women include:

  • Production of sesame, groundnuts, cowpeas, okra, hibiscus, and vegetables;
  • Soap production;
  • Horticultural crops using small-scale family drip irrigation kits.

Intensive fattening of cows, sheep, and goats should be expanded. Such efforts will need to be accompanied by supporting microcredit institutions to support capital-intensive investments in feed supplements, forage, and veterinary care.

Fodder production on degraded lands (BDL) holds promise. Bourgou production in Mali may have potential for development. Sufficient land area may be a limiting factor and bourgou seeds would need to be made more accessible.

Feed supplements for livestock are in short supply and strong demand, particularly in the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso. Improved sourcing of the feed supplement is needed to increase production and should be further researched to identify market opportunities.

Markets for high value NTFPs appear to be underdeveloped and could potentially be expanded. Tree species with high market value include gum Arabic (acacia Senegal, acacia radiana), acacia nilotica (good fodder source for small ruminants in the dry season), and moringa (medicinal and nutritional value). Soap production from balanites is another market opportunity that could hold some potential.


Executive Summary 1
Acronyms 5
1. Introduction 6
2. Study Methodology 11
3. Research Context 17
4. Key Findings 37
5. Recommendations 70
Annexes 79


Publication details

Authors: Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA) Research Team, Appollo Nkwake, John Magistro, Peter Horjus
Publisher: Catholic Relief Services (September 2014)
Report: 100 pages
Language: English
Dimensions: 8.5 x 11 inches

Posted on September 22, 2014

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