A value chain approach to agro-ecological intensification of smallholders’ crop-livestock farming systems in southern Mali.


The population increase in southern Mali, in combination with complex challenges posed by the rainfed nature of agriculture, climate change and natural resource degradation, puts smallholder farmers under pressure to produce more food and improve their livelihoods. Agro-ecological intensification (AEI) holds potential for agricultural productivity, nutritious healthy ecosystems and better livelihoods. Indeed, the rising population offers opportunities to farmers to gain more income from increasing food demand, particularly in livestock and cereal value chains. Among the food value chain actors (e.g. producers, wholesalers, retailers and processors) farmers often represent a weaker or disadvantaged party in terms of resources and negotiation power, and their interests and priorities may be overlooked by their business partners and other stakeholders. 

The overall aim of this study is to contribute to AEI and improving smallholder livelihoods through a better understanding of the role of market participation and co-innovation among value chain actors. The study will combine various concepts (farming systems, AEI, value chain and co-innovation) in iterative learning cycles with farmers and other stakeholders, using the DEED cycle. By so doing, it will focus on selected value chains and AEI options that are tailored to the local specific context. 

As part of this research students may want to focus on one of the following topics:

·     Investigation of the contribution of the co-innovation to the performance and functioning of smallholder farms. 

·     Contribute to the adaptation of existing farm management and planning tools to the local context of southern Mali for farmers and other development agents.


This MSc research is part of the project “Pathways to agro-ecological intensification of crop-livestock systems in southern Mali”. The project is being implemented by ICRISAT, the Malian National Agricultural Institute (Institut d’Economie Rurale) and the Malian NGO AMEDD.

Type of work

Data collection through interviews with farmers and value chain actors, focus groups discussions, and observations. Analysis of the data will combine economic and agronomic principles, with a focus on one or the other, depending on the student’s interest.


An interest in interdisciplinary research; willingness to conduct field work in Mali; at least basic command of French. 


Koutiala district in Mali and Wageningen. Anytime. 


Katrien Descheemaeker                      0317-486102              katrien.descheemaeker@wur.nl

Arouna Dissa                                                                          arouna.dissa@wur.nl