Gender and Variety Selection: Farmer's Assessment of Local Maize Varieties in Southern Mali

In order to respond to the variability of local conditions and production objectives, farmers in southern Mali generally grow several varieties of maize, representing different characteristics. Their selection criteria have been reported to be quite different from those of breeders. Moreover, women's criteria for processing and consumption have often been neglected. The complexity and variability of farmer' production strategies and objective make it difficult to grasp farmer's selection criteria, for both gender. In southern Mali, thematic research on the improvement of cereal varieties consists of testing new varieties on-station, followed by multi-location on-farm trials managed by researchers. Researcher' principal selection criteria are yield maximisation and agro-climatic stability. As such, several high yielding varieties have been selected for extension, but have, however, failed to be widely adopted. A participatory research methodology has been developed to quantify farmers' criteria for growing and prioritize local varieties. Through open evaluations, the relative importance of the different local varieties and their major characteristics, important to farmers, can be depicted. Pair-wise comparisons result in gender specific prioritizing of varieties and quantification of decision making criteria. Linking decision making criteria with farmer and farm characteristics assists in explaining underlying objectives and strategies. This new methodology was used to asses local maize varieties in two zones in southern Mali. The results show that there was a wide range of selection criteria other than yield and ecological adaptability. The importance of these criteria differed substantially between zones and among male and female farmers, reflecting their production objectives and strategies. Incorporation of these criteria early in the selection programme could help breeders to produce varieties with a better chance of adoption. Through quantification of these criteria, it is possible to help prioritize breeders' selection criteria and to predict future adoption.

Defoer, T., Kamara, A., & Groote, H. D. (1997). Gender and variety selection: Farmers assessment of local maize varieties in Southern Mali. African Crop Science Journal, 5(1). doi:10.4314/acsj.v5i1.27872
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Journal Article
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