Mali's Agricultural Minister gets an irrigation lesson in south Georgia - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Mali's Agricultural Minister gets an irrigation lesson in south Georgia

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

December 4, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The west African country of Mali is among the poorest in the world, but a new focus on agriculture and a trip to southwest Georgia is hoping to change that.

Mali's President signed an agreement with the University of Georgia to collaborate on agricultural issues. The agreement hopes to help the country feed its people and grow their biggest export crop, cotton. South Georgia fields aren't that different from the fields of Mali in west Africa, a half a world away. They, too, struggle with a climate much like Georgia's that includes recent droughts. In Camilla, Mali's agricultural minister hoped to learn better ways to grow crops.

"The first issue is productivity. Mali wants to increase its productivity. The second issue is the price of cotton which as you know is very low which makes it very difficult for the Malian farmers," said Tiemoko Sangare, Mali Minister of Agriculture.

Mali is one of the largest producers of cotton in the world yet the crops aren't irrigated because of the scarcity of water. Today a lesson in south Georgia about subterranean irrigation proved educational.

"In Mali some of the traditional methods of irrigation results in a lot of water loss so of the methods here would be of particular relevance as Mali expands it's agricultural production," said Sangare.

Right now, the country farms two million acres, but only 350,000 acres are irrigated. The country's president wants to double both those numbers. The problem is producing crops that don't sicken the people.

"The peanuts in Mali have aflatoxins which makes it difficult for the health. One of the major areas of cooperation the minister's been discussing with President Adams and the professors at the University of Georgia is how to address this aflatoxin problem. If you can diminish the aflatoxin in the peanut crop you can increase the crop as well as make it safer for the people," said Sangare.

"What we hope to do is introduce them to an number of our specialists and our scientists to help them with some technologies they can apply to improve the life in their country," said Dr. Joe West, UGA-Tifton Assistant Dean It's a relationship that's not expected to end at the conclusion of this trip.

UGA will be looking for opportunities to send scientists to Mali in hopes of cross-breeding plants to improve growth, heartiness or resistance to disease.

The delegation began touring UGA agricultural related-facilities Tuesday and will visit fields in Tifton and Athens before the trip concludes at the end of the week.

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