Pathways to AEI-III

Lead Organization:

Wageningen University

Partner Organizations:


Community of Practice:

Farmer research network (FRN), West Africa






In southern Mali, farmers rely on cotton and livestock for income and on maize, sorghum, and pearl millet as food crops, with crop-livestock interactions as a key element. Rapid human population growth, stagnating crop yields, and decreasing labor productivity are worrying trends. Producing more food is challenged by natural resource degradation and climate change.
Agroecological intensification (AEI) is proposed as a way to increase agricultural productivity and nutritious food production, while maintaining healthy ecosystems and equitably improving livelihoods. Several lessons were derived from the previous two phases of the Pathways to AEI project led by Wageningen University in southern Mali. First, the team found that technical AEI options need to be combined with institutional improvements in farm management, collective action, and marketing. Second, because of the strong variability in returns on investment and increasing climate-induced uncertainty, risk mitigation strategies are a prerequisite to induce practice change. Third, the transformation of sub-Saharan African food systems requires interdisciplinary, adaptive approaches that bring together diverse stakeholders for co-learning and co-designing solutions.
Farmer research networks (FRN)—with their focus on inclusivity, diversity, local relevance, and knowledge co-creation—can foster farmer empowerment and agency, which are key drivers in the transition to sustainable farming systems. Yet much remains to be done to translate the FRN to a transformative reality. A shared vision for the future of Malian farming systems could serve as a target for AEI pathways, which lay out the steps and required enabling conditions to reach the vision, including the role of FRNs.

Grant Aims:

The purpose of this request is to contribute to improved agricultural productivity, resilient and equitable farmer livelihoods, food and nutrition security, and environmental health through AEI in the crop-livestock farming systems of southern Mali.
This project will contribute to two pathways of the CCRP theory of change by (1) identifying and assessing AEI options that improve the performance of agri­cultural systems; and by (2) building the capacity of institutions and various stakeholders to support farming communities to advance along AEI pathways, using an FRN approach.
Through an inclusive co-learning process, the project will empower smallholder farmers to drive the development process and to benefit from contextualized agricultural research.

Outputs and Outcomes:

Intended Outputs and Outcomes

  1. The co-design of AEI pathways will increase the awareness by policy makers and the donor community on the multi-dimensional effects of trends (e.g. demography, climate, etc.) and interventions on farming systems.
  2. Co-designed technical AEI options will be disseminated through leaflets, posters, videos, and by involving new farmers in the FRN. This will enable female and male farmers and development/ extension agents to choose AEI options tailored to their context
  3. Decision support tools will increase farmers’ and farmer groups’ skills for planning, monitoring and evaluation. This will improve management of farms, farmer groups and collective action, and in turn may positively influence the adoption of AEI options and risk management strategies, and the collaboration of farmers in the value chains.
  4. Co-learning in the FRN will improve farmers’ awareness about AEI and the available technical and institutional options. Farmer empowerment and improved agency will gradually change how the research agenda is set
  5. The planned capacity strengthening at multiple levels is expected to empower smallholder farmers and other stakeholders to move along pathways to AEI.


  • Advancing together · Overview of the CCRP Portfolio in West Africa as of 2020

    West Africa