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[BAMAKO] Mali has developed a ten-year plan to encourage and finance agricultural research and development.

The plan, announced this week (24 May), aims to provide a coherent policy for scientific research in the country, says Adama Traore, executive secretary of the National Council for Research in Agriculture (CNRA), the organisation coordinating the plan.

The plan will bring together civil society, the private sector and farmers to develop ideas for future agriculture research. Government ministries such as agriculture, health, environment, technology and finance are working to form committees to push the research agenda forward.

National agriculture institutions such as the Central Veterinary Laboratory and the Rural Economy Institute will liaise on research projects.

To address the research skills shortage and the problem of brain drain, the University of Mali will introduce a new agricultural research curriculum to recruit and train new scientists.

The government will provide 30 per cent of the US$61 million budget for the first three years. The local private sector and farmer associations will make up the remaining 60 and 10 per cent respectively.

Traore told SciDev.Net that by raising money locally, the plan will help decrease dependence on foreign donor money. At present almost 60 per cent of agricultural development in Mali depends on foreign assistance.

A trial programme, in which the cotton seed sector contributed around US$600,000 to agricultural development, has already been a success, says Traore, and the CNRA wants to extend the programme to sectors such as rice and livestock production.

Ever since the introduction of democracy in Mali and the government's new policy of funding research, research and development have been high on the country's agenda, says Modibo Haidara, director general of the National Centre for Research in Science and Technology.

This has encouraged local scientists to begin undertaking research projects in different fields, he said.

The centre has begun its own programme to promote science, Haidara says, by introducing annual innovation competitions in secondary schools and research institutions.