Climate change has made growing vegetables in Mali today much tougher than it was 40 years ago when Amadou Sidibe used to visit his father’s lush farm outside the capital Bamako.
Inspired by his family’s gardening history, and by technology he had come across during business trips in Israel, Sidibe in 2011 began developing Mali’s first automated greenhouse - a hectare-wide metal and plastic structure that looms over the low surrounding scrub, the only vegetation that grows reliably under Mali’s blistering sun.
Inside Sidibe’s greenhouse, fed by a computer-controlled watering system designed by an Israeli company, are hundreds of rows of bushy tomato plants trained on string, their branches thick with unripe fruit.
Each plant gets a designated amount of water and fertilizer, and troublesome insects are kept out by netting that covers the whole greenhouse. Its ribbed roof helps limit the amount of sunlight and heat that penetrates the space. Strawberries grow year round, as do peppers and melons.