Madam Coulibaly already had good business skills and experience building farmer organizations when she created Faso Kaba, a private seed company
in Mali that is supported by AGRA. In establishing Faso Kaba, her goal was to help fill the large unmet demand among farmers for good varieties of local crops like sorghum, maize, cowpea, rice and vegetables.
Mme. Coulibaly does something that many seed dealers in Mali and other parts of Africa usually do not do – she keeps her seed prices low enough so that smallholder farmers, who are normally short on cash, can afford to buy it. And instead of packaging seed in large volumes, Mme. Coulibaly provides seed of sorghum, rice, millet, maize, groundnuts, cowpeas, and beans in various size packages, making them easier for farmers to buy, transport and use.
In addition to “being able to take care of me and my family,” from starting the seed dealership, says Coulibaly, she has also been able to expand the business, hire a number of full-time employees, and use part-time staff to help package seed. “Unfortunately”, she says, “it hasn’t been easy to find or hire women agrodealers to reach more women farmers because it’s harder for them to travel”.
To produce and market its seed, Faso Kaba uses contract seed growers
– the majority of which are women – and sells the seed through company shops and more than 40 village-based seed merchants. The company works closely with Mali’s national agricultural research institute, its seed certification laboratory, the extension service, local seed and fertilizer merchants, and several farmers’ organizations.
Eighteen months after receiving its first bit of assistance from AGRA, Faso Kaba had already produced and sold more than 300 MT of certified seed. Finally, poor farmers in Mali are able to purchase high quality seed of local food crops through a responsive, independent seed company.
AGRA’s support for Mali’s fledgling private seed sector is part of its comprehensive approach to catalyzing change. In Mali, this includes supporting the national agricultural research organization, l’Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), to develop improved varieties of Guinea-race sorghum hybrids, rice adapted to various ecosystems, drought- and disease-tolerant maize, disease-resistant millet hybrids, and Striga- resistant cowpea varieties. It is also working to improve farmers’ and farm business access to affordable credit, and is supporting a growing network of agrodealers. AGRA is also partnering with the Millennium Challenge Account-Mali to build market infrastructure, post-harvest systems and value-added processing.