Climate change is expected to increase vulnerability in all agro-ecological zones of Mali through rising temperature and more erratic rainfalls, which will have drastic consequences on food security and economic growth. This study aimed at assessing the effect of Climate Change and Variability on Pearl Millet (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.) Production in the Sudanian and Sahelian Agro-Ecological Zones in Mali. First, the perception of farmers on climate change variability and their adaptation practices to overcome or reduce the negative impacts of climate change on their farming system as well as their livelihoods were investigated in the Sahelian zone.

Therefore, 119 farmers’ household including women and youth were randomly selected and interviewed using structured questionnaire. Next, the changes in trends of daily temperature and precipitation extremes in Sotuba and Cinzana during the period 1961 – 2014 were assessed. In order to investigate extreme precipitation and temperature, daily minimum and maximum records for two stations (Ségou and Bamako) were collected at the Aghrymet Meteorological Centre of Niamey for the period 1961-2014. Finally, the performance of two millet varieties in two agro-ecological zones of Mali was assessed using the DSSAT (The decision support system for agro-technology transfer) model under different climate conditions. Two years’ experiments were therefore conducted at Agricultural Research Station of Sotuba and Cinzana in the randomised complete block design with 4 replications. The fertiliser treatments included Control, MANURE, NPK and NPK+MANURE. DSSAT model were used to simulate crop grain yields under 2 different weather conditions (historical and future). The results showed that farmers perceived a decrease in annual rainfall as the main factors of climate change and variability.

Several strategies such as selling of animals, planting improved crop varieties, engaging in new activities (outside agriculture) and credit were the commonly preferred adaptation strategies to deal with climate change and variability. A significant decrease of warming trends in cool days, cool nights, whereas warm extreme nights, day times and warm spells on the contrary showed positive significant increasing warming throughout the Ségou Region. The results of precipitation extremes for Ségou showed significant decrease in consecutive wet and extremely wet day. The study provided evidence that during the last 53 years, Ségou was particularly affected by warm extremes based on night time indices rather than cold extremes based on day time indices. At Sotuba, the average grain yield was 1293 kg ha-1 and 1503 kg ha-1 for the years 2013 and 2014, respectively. In Cinzana, the observed average grain yields in 2013 and 2014 were 1390 and 1530 kg ha-1, respectively. The analyses did show significant differences between the varieties and among the fertilizer treatments. Moreover, millet yield responded to the different historical climatic conditions under all treatments.

In line with the experimental data, the highest historical grain yields were achieved when the combination NPK+MANURE was applied. Millet grain yields were higher under the simulations with historical weather data than the simulations with climate change scenarios. Simulation of climate change effects on millet grain yield showed that all scenarios underestimated crop yield compared to the Baseline for all treatments and both varieties. Significant differences (P < 0.05) were revealed among the scenario outputs. All the varieties showed lowest grain yields under the four treatments for ACCESS1-0 (Hot-Wet) among the scenarios.

Based on the findings of this study, policy could be developed to enhance farmers’ adaptation strategies in the Sudanian and Sahelian zones of Mali.