The vegetable sector in Mali has grown very rapidly over the last decade. Vegetables are produced by small-scale farmers across the country with the main areas located in Sikasso, Ségou, Kayes, Koulikoro and Bamako. Vegetables of high economic importance include okra, shallot, tomato, chili pepper, onion, lettuce, squash, eggplant, cucumber and cabbage. Farmers’ seed demand for these crops has been largely met with seed imports while the informal sector (that is, seed saved by farmers for own use and local exchange) is the main source of seed for most other vegetables, particularly traditional vegetables. Only small amounts of vegetable seed are produced by the formal sector in Mali. This study’s objective was to review the development of local vegetable seed production in Mali and to identify key challenges as well as entry points to its development. Particular attention was given to the potential of irrigation to stimulate local seed production. The study focused on the formal vegetable seed sector, consisting of seed companies, seed cooperatives and agrodealers, however, without ignoring the informal and semi-formal sectors. Data were collected through a review of available literature and over 70 interviews with government officers, seed companies, seed cooperatives, individual seed producers, agrodealers and seed distributors. The results identify a range of factors constraining domestic production of vegetable seed. While there has been much progress in organizing individual seed producers into cooperatives and associations of seed producers, these organizations face a range of constraints including low technical capacity of staff, limited access to finance, lack of seed processing and packing equipment, and lack of irrigation technologies that often limit seed production to the wet season. Agrodealers mentioned that locally produced seed does not look as attractive as imported seed packs. Imported seed requires a phytosanitary certificate and germination testing, but does not require variety registration. Locally produced varieties are subjected to multilocation and multiseason trials for Value for Cultivation and Use (VCU) and Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) to be registered in a national catalogue of plant varieties before they can be released. Furthermore, local vegetable seed production is subjected to mandatory seed certification and formally requires 4-5 field visits by government inspectors, although in practice they tend to visit only once due to capacity constraints. Such requirements disadvantage local vegetable seed production relative to seed imports. The problem is further compounded by the fact that many seed imports escape phytosanitary and custom inspection. Some of these challenges could potentially be addressed by regional harmonization of seed laws, but Mali’s seed laws are still not fully aligned, standards have been agreed only for tomato and onion, and a list of quarantine pests and diseases is not available-all of which limit the effectiveness of regional harmonization. It is recommended that the vegetable seed sector is given higher priority in government policies. Seed laws and regulations need to be revisited to take the specific nature of vegetable seed into account. Requirements related to variety registration, seed certification, and basic seed production may need to be eased for vegetables to make local seed production more competitive. The technical capacity of local seed producers also requires strengthening and they need access to seed processing and packaging equipment, storage, improved irrigation equipment, and finance. Finally, there is a need to invest in local vegetable breeding research to increase farmers’ choice of locally adapted varieties.




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