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Photo of Nango Dembélé

Nango Dembélé

Minister Commissioner for Food Security

Mali

What most impressed the professional colleagues who nominated this role model?

Nango Dembélé has focused his exceptional energy and talent on finding ways to improve food security and agricultural markets in West Africa.  In the aftermath of the Sahelian droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, he led efforts to understand how markets responded to repeated, acute shocks and how to use that information to find ways to improve short-term early warning systems as well as long-term agricultural development efforts.  Beginning in the mid-1980s, when structural adjustment and profound market reforms transformed rural economies in West Africa, he led research and outreach efforts that provided a strong empirical base for the design of improved policies and market institutions.  He was instrumental in helping found and launch Mali’s agricultural market information system in 1989 and in building a network of such systems across West Africa. 

His contributions have extended well beyond Mali; he helped design regional agricultural programs for WAEMU and ECOWAS and co-authored a key report by the UN’s High Level Panel of Experts of the impact of price volatility on food security worldwide. Throughout his career, he has worked diligently to mentor younger colleagues and students, helping to build the next generation of African policy analysts. His energy and drive led to his nomination in 2013 as Deputy Minister of Rural Development and in 2014 as Minister Commissioner for Food Security.

Few agricultural professionals possess his depth of knowledge, compassion and effectiveness in spearheading practical improvements in agricultural production and marketing systems in West Africa. 

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • I grew up in a peasant family in a small rural village.  My father died very young.  So my goal in life has been to find practical ways to help my mother and other small farmers, who have suffered serious privation and hardship in their efforts to raise their children. 
  • My mother inspired me to find practical ways to help small farmers.  From a young age, I saw her work so very hard to feed her children.  She has served as my continuous inspiration, motivating me to apply my education to the problems of ordinary farmers.

 How can agricultural education institutions more effectively prepare African students for successful agribusiness careers? 

  • Primary schools need more practical applications as well as more science and math.
  • Vocational schools also need more support and the need improved links to the private sector.
  • I remember the CED (Centres d’Education pour the Developpement) which operated during the late 1990s in Mali.  Run by the decentralized authorities, they provided practical four-year programs for school dropouts, covering basic literacy, numeracy and vocational skills. 

Career highlights

  • Minister Commissioner for Food Security, Mali.
  • “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mali”
  • Deputy Minister of Livestock, Fisheries and Food Security, Mali.
  • Michigan State University, Professor of International Development and coordinator of MSU’s food security research and outreach programs in West Africa.
  • International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), Burkina Faso.
  • Helped design and launch Mali’s market information system.

Educational background

  • Primary school: 
    • Kiffoso Primary School.
    • Ecole fondamentale de Yorosso.
  • Secondary school:     
    • Lycée de Banankoro, Segou.

Lycee Badalabougou , Bamako.

  • University:                 
    • Ecole Nationale d’Administration, Public Finance.
    • M.Sc., Applied Economics, University of Michigan, 1986.
    • Ph.D., Michigan State University, 1994.