Beyond Grain: The Potential of Cowpea in Local Markets of Mali

From the November 2021 newsletter.

In addition to being well adapted to the climatic conditions of Mali, cowpea has the potential to meet the needs of consumers who are looking for food products that are nutritious, diverse and easy to prepare. Despite its potential, little research or policy has focused on cowpea and, in particular, its processing and commercialization components.
The purpose of this study is to assess the development potential of cowpea beyond grain in local markets in Mali, including: (1) identifying different types of vendors and different types of cowpea products sold; (2) examining the roles of different types of cowpea vendors and their relationships; (3) quantifying the profit margins of different vendors; and (4) discussing constraints and opportunities to develop the cowpea value chain in Mali.
To do this, information on cowpea products was collected from 487 vendors in 26 local markets. Our results show that the cowpea value chain in Mali includes several types of vendors in local markets, such as processed product retailers, fresh leaf retailers and fodder retailers in addition to wholesalers, grain collectors and retailers. Women are clearly at the heart of grain processing activities and the marketing of processed products as well as fresh leaves. The marketing of cooked cowpeas offers retailers higher margin rates compared to beignets (fritters) and pancakes.
Grain sellers, mostly men, have lower margins, but sell larger quantities. Their activities are therefore more profitable than those of retailers of processed products. Given the great potential of cowpea processing and marketing in Mali, this study recommends that policy makers include cowpea in their policy to support agricultural diversification. 
Cowpea in Mali.
Dr. Veronique Theriault from Michigan State University leads the project, "Quantifying the Scale and Scope of Nutritious Cowpea Products in Local Markets". Photo on left depicting cowpea in Mali, courtesy of Mamadou Sissoko.

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