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Pesticide Plants for Organic Cotton in Mali

Project details

Project Leader: 
Funded By: 
Darwin Initiative and TRAID

Objectives and outputs


Funded by the Darwin Initiative and TRAID, Kew’s Pesticide Plants Project for the production of organic cotton in Mali is working with local farmers and national institutions in-country to understand the current use of pesticide plant species. This project not only identifies those pesticide plant species and their active compounds, but helps cultivate them, optimise their use and promotes awareness of biodiversity and pesticide plants among policy makers and local people.


The economy of Mali is dependent on the use of its natural resources, cotton being the dominant crop produced by farmers in the southern regions of Sikasso, Segou, Kayes and Koulikoro. Synthetic pesticides used in conventional farming have numerous harmful and dangerous effects however, from the health and safety implications of their application as well as environmental impacts. By contrast, the growing organic cotton market provides an opportunity for farmers to double their income, while reducing their impact on the environment. Unfortunately, producing this organic cotton currently relies on unsustainable wild harvesting of pesticide plants, or botanical insecticides, to replace the synthetic chemicals.

Project description

By improving the scientific understanding behind the properties of pesticide plant species used by farmers, the project is enabling optimum standards to be established. This will generate efficiency savings, increasing organic yields and therefore income, and at the same time reducing wild-harvesting and pressure on vulnerable species.

The communities involved, through the creation of community gardens and family gardens, will benefit through the provision of pesticide plants. Subsequently, this will reduce pressure on wild sources of pesticides even further, supporting sustainable organic cotton farming, reducing the costs of inputs and further increasing profits for these subsistence farmers.


  • Identify pesticide species currently used by organic cotton farmers in target communities
  • Identify active compounds in the key pesticide plants being used by cotton producers and establish relative effectiveness of different species
  • Establish four small-scale organic pesticide producers and train them to supply optimum standard organic pesticides to cotton farmers
  • Establish four community demonstration gardens to strengthen the capacity of target communities to cultivate pesticide plants
  • Increase awareness of pesticide plant used for organic cotton production among policy makers in Mali


  • A list of pesticide species collated from desk study and questionnaires addressed to organic cotton farmers in the 4 regions of Mali; specimens of seeds and herbarium vouchers of pesticide species collected
  • The compounds present in key pesticide species identified and the application level of ingredients from different species in field trials determined
  • 10 farmers from the four regions and FENABE trained in producing optimum standard plant-based products for organic crop production; small-scale supply branches of standardised pesticide products set up in each of the four regions
  • Demonstration gardens of at least one hectare in each of the four regions planted with key pesticide species seedlings and maintained; seed supplied and seedling production increased in nurseries to ensure individual needs met and continuity of cultivation
  • A workshop to disseminate results to the wider organic cotton farming community in Mali

Results so far include:

A total of 25 pesticide plant species have been identified, collected and stored to international standards. Collections have been assessed through seed testing in Mali and at RBG Kew (viability, germination, dormancy, barriers to storage).

In Mali, training of nurserymen for production of seedlings in village nurseries has taken place. The activity of some pesticide plants has also been monitored in field conditions. Plantations of pesticide plants are located in 14 farms, with 6 plant species planted on 8.75 hectares: Adansonia digitata, Khaya senegalensis, Carapa procera, Tamarindus indica, Faidherbia albida and Parkia biglobosa. Improved harvesting methods have been developed and efficient protocols have been developed for by-product extraction. For example, training was conducted in Mali on oil extraction techniques for Balanites aegyptiaca and Carapa procera; on preparation and optimal use of biopesticides; and on identification and recognition of cotton pests. Demonstration plots have been set up in communities and have been monitored and maintained and, if needed, replenished and/or fenced to exclude animals.

Active compounds of pesticide plants have been identified by the CEIVB team at Kew.

A training workshop entitled “Pesticide Plants workshop: Their safe and effective use in pest control” was delivered in Ghana in June 2017 with 17 participants from Mali and three from Benin.


Handbook of Pesticide species (in French): Guide des plantes pesticides Optimisation des plantes pesticides: technologie, innovation, sensibilisation & réseaux 

Sacande, M., Sanogo, S. and Beentje, H. (2016) Guide d'Identification des Arbres du Mali. Royal Botanic Gardens

Sacande, M. and Berrahmouni, N. (2016). Community participation and ecological criteria for selecting species and restoring natural capital with native species in the Sahel. Restoration Ecology, 24, 479-488