Societal learning for environmental protection and management in Mali

Date of Completion

January 2000


Education, Adult and Continuing|Environmental Sciences




Because deforestation and soil erosion destroy extensive areas of productive land, they constitute the biggest challenges to social and economic development in Mali. Between 1980 and 1989, land cultivation acquired 300,000 to 400,000 hectares per year of forested land. Soil erosion affects as much as 60% to 80% of productive land during periods of heavy rainfalls. ^ The study was conducted in three villages in Southern Mali. Its purpose was to understand how differing perspectives among farmers, extension agents, planners, and researchers influenced practices and policies related to an eco-sustainable agricultural system in Mali. Data were gathered using a combination of ethnographic techniques, participant observation, informal conversations, and semi-structured open-ended interviews. Data were coded and sorted according to themes and patterns. The themes and patterns were analyzed in terms of their relevance to the statement of purpose and research questions. ^ The study revealed that farmers, researchers, extension agents, and planners were all aware of the deforestation and soil erosion related problems as well as the consequences of these problems to the agricultural production processes, as well as related impacts on the lives of people in Mali. However, differences in attitudes, prior experiences, and worldviews among these key players led to differences in perspectives with respect to government protection and management policy related to deforestation and soil erosion. Because of these differing perspectives, ecological imperatives for eco-sustainable natural resource conservation and management have not yet emerged in Mali. ^ The results suggest that solutions to deforestation and soil erosion related problems in Mali would best be developed through an interactive, collaborative, and cogenerative learning process that includes all stakeholders; enhances their interactions; synchronizes their attitudes, experiences, worldviews; and facilitates on-going, reflective dialogues. The results also suggest that such a cogenerative learning system will accelerate the development of an eco-sustainable agriculture in Mali. ^