Unsustainable rice cultivation practices cost Mali 1% of its annual GDP

Rice is extensively cultivated in Mali constituting an important source of food and income for many Malians living along the banks of Niger. Rice production in Mali generates 5% of the country’s annual GDP, equivalent to 220 billion CFA Francs (USD 457 million), and is as such very important to the country’s economy as well as food security. However, current unsustainable and inefficient practices in the rice sector are having a negative impact on the environment reducing the potential financial and human benefits obtained. 

Unsustainable use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for cultivating rice in Mali is causing river pollution and contamination of groundwater. Aquatic plants, such as water hyacinths and lilies, harmful to both the fishery and the agriculture sector are rapidly increasing and the unsustainable use of water for rice cultivation is reducing the amount of water available for drinking as well as for other purposes.     

To better understand the economic benefits of environmentally sustainable practices and the costs of unsustainable practices for rice cultivation, the Government of Mali, with PEI support, conducted an environmental economic analysis which concluded in June 2014.                                                

The assessment showed that the inefficient use of energy and negative environmental impacts due to the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is costing Mali 48.5 billion CFA Franc (equivalent to US$ 100.7 million), which represents 22% of the total value added by the sector or 1% of the annual GDP. Shifting to more sustainable practices and increasing the energy efficiency is estimated to cost 20.5 billion CFA Francs (equivalent to USD 42 million). This indicates that each CFA Franc that is invested for enhancing the sustainability and energy efficiency of the rice sector gives a return of 2.4 CFA Franc. 

Enhancing the use of environmentally sustainable practices in the rice sector is thus very profitable as it provides a double return on the investment made while protecting the environment. It is also very important to ensure that unsustainable use of chemicals and pesticides does not have a negative impact on the country’s food security. 

Based on the findings of the assessment it is recommended that Mali’s agriculture policy expand its objectives and targets for rice cultivation to not only encompass an increase in production and yields but also the notion of sustainability and environmental impacts. It is also recommended that the Government of Mali critically review its policy of subsidizing chemical fertilizers and explore alternative support mechanisms for rice farmers as well as tighten the regulations for the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 

In light of the findings from the study PEI will continue to support the Government of Mali to explore how the recommendations from the study can best be implemented to promote pro-poor sustainable development.

Analyse économico-environnementale du secteur du riz au Mali, 2014 

Photo Credit: UN/Marco Dormino/ # 574220   

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