Here in dry arid tropical climate , Republic of Mali (Western Africa). My family has a 24 hectares field. We have been able to fence 2 hectares and a borewell with a LOT of water (17 cubic meters per hour).
I wanted to know what you were thinking about my strategy for cash crops.
- Dry Arid / Tropical Climate (3-4 months raining season)
- Mostly Sandy Soil
- Lots of Shea Trees on the field (19 in the 2 hectares fenced area)
- Lots of Water : Borewell with 17 cubic meters per hour
- A 100 persons approximately in my family, money is necessitated for educational purposes mostly (public school is terrible).
My strategy : - Split the 2 hectares in 3 :
- 1st part to grow lemon trees irrigated on a regular basis so they can provide fruits all year long
- 2nd part : Banana crops
- 3rd part : A root crop to take advantage of the sandy soil, Cassava would be one option but it doesn't require that much irrigation. Also considering niche that have some kind of a market here (strawberries, herbs, ....)
Regarding the non fenced remaining 22 hectares. Planning to build a living hedge little by little :
- Take advantage of the numerous shea trees already present on the field
- Plant many Cashew Trees as well (loves sandy soil i think, great in my climate)
- Plant some Custard Apple Trees (loves the climate as well)
- Puts a lot of beehives
- Long term wise : plant some timber species
My questions are the following regarding that strategy :
- Is there another cash crop particularly suited to my dry arid climate that I haven't considered here ?
- Is 3-4 cash crops enough ? Too much ?
- Is it a good enough use of the huge amount of water I have in my borewell.
- Are those crops (lemon, banana, cashew,...) going to adapt fairly well to my future climate ?
The stats on the net list cotton as cash crop for Mali.
Most common food crops are millet, rice, sorghum.
What the mennonites did in Paraguay comes to mind though. They converted the Chaco into a very productive cattle raising region through time.
So maybe a silvopasture approach with fast growing nitrogen fixing arid tolerating trees (legumes, locust, mimosas, autumn olive, etc. Get more ideas maybe from plants for a future) with native grasses and then run some cattle with chickens coming after.
Thanks for posting Eli - there are a lot of considerations here and I hope you find our insights helpful.
In terms of the "cash" part of cash crops:
What do other farmers grow in your area? Do they sell these as bulk crops to a wholesaler or distributor, or do they sell smaller amounts in local markets? if you have no access to a bulk procurer, you may have to focus on smaller groups of crop type, and stagger harvest times, etc. to make sure you can meet local demand throughout the year.
Do you have (or will prepare) adequate storage and delivery of your crops in their needed timeframes before spoiling?
in terms of water:
for your own future crop security, plan on planting as if you did not have a borewell; find crops that can handle lower irrigation levels, maximize water retention in ground through swales, zai pits, etc and mulch to conserve irrigation when applied(if you do drip irrigation, put the lines under the mulch, not above).
If you do this, you can conserve your borewell throughput for other uses, and your farm is partially protected in the event your well runs dry or lowers its output (which is a very real concern)
If you plan on selling locally, look into what crops command high prices, high demand, or are not present in sufficient quantity. these would be better to sell than your staple goods that go for low price or are difficult to process.
on a personal note - if you grow things that you like to eat or use, you are protected partially from market fluctuations, because you can be more comfortable eating your own produce if no one is buying.
I hope this helps
Experimenting and growing on my small acre in SW USA; Fruit & Nut trees w/ annuals, hoping to get Chickens, rabbits, and in-laws onto property soon.
Long term goal - Furniture & Luthier Stay-at-home farm dad.
Location: Bamako, Mali
posted 11 months ago
Thanks to you both !
I'll try to identify the cash crops that brings a good price locally like you suggested Dustin.
Cotton is indeed widely cultivated in the country, but the price is not that interesting, and I am not sure cotton farming is good/sustainable for our soil.
As far as Lemon Tree Farming and Banana Farming, would you recommend some ressources that would help me plan a strategy to cultivate it in the most sustainable way ?
I don't know of specific varieties, but as far as lemons, get ones that are everbearing - you'll have lemons all year, instead of all at once one time per year.
Cavendish will your main crop of bananas if you choose to export of sell to distributor - there may be local varieties that have more flavor though. I've heard that getting seeds to germinate is terribly difficult, so propagating pups is more likely to be successful for you.
List of cash crop
Herbs and species such as
Next would be herbal/medicinal supplements.
After that would be vegetables.
Followed by fruits
Last would be rice/sugar/wheat-flour/cornmeal/starches.
Personally I would take the 2 hectares (4.4acres) and grow fish and chicken and honey bee, and herbs and species to feed your 100 family members. Value added product might be the way to go.
Iterations are fine, we don't have to be perfect
Whatever. Here's a tiny ad:
100th Issue of Permaculture Magazine - now FREE for a while