Discover the latest from the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) initiative. This issue talks about product profiling, costing of maize breeding, highlights of CIMMYT’s Kenya Annual Partner Days and portraits of Kenyan farmers who have adopted stress-tolerant maize varieties. READ HERE
The Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA)
project held its annual meeting May 7-9, 2019 in Lusaka, Zambia to discuss the
achievements of the past year and priorities going forward.
STMA Project Leader Cosmos Magoroksho recalled
what STMA project launched in 2016 is aiming at “Maize is grown on 30 million
hectares in SSA, and more than 208 million farmers depend on it as a staple
crop. However, average maize yields in SSA are among the lowest in the world.
STMA is a multi-stakeholder project designed to develop, test and deliver
improved maize varieties that can mitigate the combined effects of multiple
stresses in farmer fields and provide reliable decent yields even in challenging
conditions like drought or low soil fertility.”
“STMA proved it is possible to combine
multiple stress tolerance and still get good yields. One of the greatest
aspects of STMA are great partnerships which have only grown stronger through
the years. We are now the proud partners of over 100 seed companies,” said B.M.
Prasanna, director of the CIMMYT Global Maize Program and the CGIAR Research
Program on Maize (MAIZE), in his keynote address.
CIMMYT and partners across SSA are working
together in the fight against challenges such as drought, maize lethal necrosis
(MLN) and fall armyworm (FAW) using innovative technologies such as doubled haploids,
marker assisted back crossing, and germplasm screening to develop improved
stress tolerant maize for farmers. The efforts are paying off—in 2018, 3.5
million smallholder farmers planted stress tolerant maize varieties in 10
African countries, Prasanna said.
On May 8, participants visited local
seed company partners, namely Afriseed, Zamseed and QualiBasic Seed to learn
more about the opportunities and challenges of producing stress tolerant maize
seed for smallholder farmers. Afriseed CEO Stephanie Angomwile discussed her
business strategy and passion for agriculture with participants. She expressed
her gratitude for the support CIMMYT has provided the company, including access
to drought tolerant maize varieties as well as capacity development
opportunities for her staff.
At QualiBasic Seeds (QBS), CIMMYT
staff and partners were given the opportunity to learn and ask questions about
the seed multiplication process in Zambia and the importance of high quality,
genetically pure foundation seeds for seed companies.
Bhola Nath Verma, principal crop
breeder at ZAMSEED explained climate change has visible impact on Zambian maize
sector as the main maize growing basket moved 500 km North due to increased
drought. Verma values the partnership with STMA as he can source very
drought-tolerant breeding material from CIMMYT and IITA allowing him to develop
very early varieties that escape drought and bring much needed yield stability
to farmers in Zambia, Angola, DRC, Botswana and Tanzania.
The meeting concluded with an
awards ceremony for the winners of the 2019 MAIZE Youth Innovators Awards –
Africa, established by MAIZE in collaboration with the Young Professionals for
Agricultural Development (YPARD). These awards recognize the contributions of
young women and men below 35 years of age who are implementing innovations in
African maize-based agri-food systems, including research-for-development, seed
systems, agribusiness, and sustainable intensification. This is the second year
of the award, and the first time it has been held in Africa. Winners include
Hildegarde Dukunde of Rwanda and Mila Lokwa Giresse of the Democratic Republic
of the Congo in the change agent category, Admire Shayanowako of the Republic
of South Africa and Ismael Mayanja of Uganda in the research category, and
Blessings Likagwa of Malawi in the farmer category.
The 2019 Annual Review and Planning Meeting
for the West and Central African Regional Stakeholders in the STMA Project was
held at the headquarter of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
(IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria, from Tuesday 23rd to Saturday 27th April 2019. The
meeting had in attendance members of the STMA maize breeding, testing,
demonstration and promotional teams in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Mali.
The meeting had for each country
scientists, promotional experts and stakeholders in the national agricultural
seed system. Each country presented their 2018 work reports, as well as 2019
plan of activities with regard to the thrust of the project.
Mali and Benin awarded for their good work
a well-deserved manner, Mali emerged the overall best winner of the 2018 Maize
Technology Breeding Country for the STMA project within the West and Central
African Region. The team had presented a robust picture for Mali, with several
varietal releases, well ahead of Nigeria, Ghana and Benin. The award was
presented to the team at the 2019 Annual Review and Planning Meeting
Benin emerged the overall best winner of the Maize Technology Dissemination Country for the STMA project for the same period and within the same region. The team presented novel ways of the promoting the STM varieties in the 2018 season, including the development and deployment of innovative platforms, alongside other conventional platforms. While Nigeria was the second runner-up to Mali in the maize technology breeding, Ghana was the runner-up for the technology dissemination.
“I am Hajia Asibi, a community women
leader, civil servant and a proud farmer. But my story and venture in
agriculture is not a conventional one.
I have not always been a farmer. In fact, I never dreamt of one day
becoming a farmer. In my youthful years, I believed farming was a profession
for the poor, the masses. Perhaps this perception was informed my archaic and
laborious methods of farming by everyone around me. Indeed, all the farmers I
knew then were poor, very poor. And because I had high taste for life, farming
for me was completely out of the equation. What I have always wanted to be was
a community leader who empower women and youths to self-empowerment and
If you grew up in northern Nigeria like I did, you will understand my
desire for women economic empowerment and freedom. The boy child was everything
the girl child wanted to be: with regard to education, marriage,
decision-making, political participation, gender roleplay and all. Luckily for
me, my parents were educated and very supportive to my desires; so I was among
the few fortunate ones to go to school with the strong backing of my parents.
After school, I joined the civil service, because of my belief in white-collar
A few years into government employment, I discovered to my utter dismay
that I could not survive our harsh economic environment with a salary job. I
struggled to meet my basic obligations as a parent, leader and citizen. After
trying several options, I found myself in agriculture. I therefore practised
agricultural business (production and sale of grains) as a means of additional
income. Unlike many other new entries into agriculture, I was not disappointed
by the drudgery and poverty surrounding its activities. These were well known
and expected by me.
And when I thought I have had enough of agricultural business,
NAERLS-IITA came to my rescue, with so many information on innovations and how
to increase profitability. They came with so much commitment and perseverance
that I had to listen to them. Indeed, I have heard about NAERLS many years ago,
especially through their broadcasts of agricultural programmes on radio and
television. Farmers in the north are fully aware of the laudable work of NAERLS
in moving agricultural production in this country. But with their activities in
the Stress-Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project, the Institute provided for
us new ways of making good money in maize farming.
Since 2006, I have been involved in the leadership of Sabon Gari Women Multipurpose Cooperatives. But we still did not make headway. When the NAERLS-STMA team came on board, they helped us strengthen our group through training, provision of information and linkages. Our members moved from farming acres to farming multiple hectares. We now harvest more than sixty (60) bags of maize from one hectare after we embraced the ST-maize varieties and other recommended farm management practices. Our profits soared dramatically and our lives took a very good turn. Our multipurpose Cooperatives now invests in many other profitable businesses, like rentals, and buying and selling of processing materials. One great testimonial of my encounter with the NAERLS-STMA team is my house, which I bought solely from my farm proceeds. During a time I was in dire need of accommodation, I was given an offer of a house for sale. The price was in millions of naira, so I thought I may never be able to buy it. Where would I get such money?’ I thought. That same season, through linkages with the right markets by the NAERLS team, I made over a million naira profit on my maize harvests. Of course, I also farm sorghum, millet and vegetables. But maize has since become my favourite crop. So I was excited over my sale and profit! Quickly, I made my first payment for the house, renovated it and did some restructuring in and around the house. I paid up the balance the following season, after another bumper harvest and sale.
Currently, I have five children in
different tertiary institutions: two of them in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria;
one in School of Health Technology, Markafi, Kaduna State; while the other two
are in Federal College of Education, Zaria. Farming helps me to meet all
educational obligations, as well as household needs.
I still work with the state government, but my focus now is more on
farming and agripreneurship. Indeed, I’m fulfilled as woman and leader in
society. I have the economic freedom I so much desired as a child, and I’m well
respected among my people.
Thank you, NAERLS-IITA team for bringing to me the needed information
for quality decision in my agricultural business. Thank you, STMA Promotional
team. I look forward to better days ahead in our collaboration.
“My name is Mallam Idris Biye, but my
people here call me Yellow Biye, perhaps because I am fair in complexion,
compared to many of my neighbours. I live in Biye Village, Kaduna State,
Nigeria; I farm maize, soybean, sorghum and millet. But my favourite is maize.
Biye has always been an agrarian community
and we love farming very much. My parents and grandparents were farmers, and we
are proud to be among the very few people that feed humanity. But recently, we
discover that our land is not as fertile as it used to be. When we were
children, we witnessed huge harvests by our parents and, therefore, believed
that farming was a profitable economic venture. My parents and grandparents
built their houses and homes from proceeds in agricultural businesses. They travelled to Giwa, Funtua, Katsina and
Kaduna to sell off their grains in exchange for money. Although education was
not that common then, we had everything we wanted while growing up. But today,
things have changed for bad for farmers. We no more understand the onsets of
rains, as they change too frequently and unpredictably. There is also the
problem of very long dry spells, and even drought in the midst of supposedly
rainy season. So we were really concerned.
Added to these, is the problem of high incidences of pests and diseases
on our maize today may be fall army worms, tomorrow it is streak! Then there is
striga, that parasite weed that has become a nightmare to maize farmers in our
area. All these put together, we became unsure and worried of what our future
as farmers would be and more worried about the future of our children. Like
many of my village men, I thought of changing my profession maybe learn mason,
be a trader or some other work. But even then, I was seriously short of cash.
Already, I had withdrawn two of my children from the school they were attending
because I couldn’t meet their fee obligation. I relocated them to a cheaper
school, which was also very low in standard, compared to the previous one. The
small kiosk I operated to augment family income remained mostly closed because
it was out of stock.
This frustration led to one thing and another until we came in contact
with NAERLS, which is the STMA Promotion organization in Nigeria. First, we
made a passionate appeal to the NAERLS Adopted Village Project to make Biye
village one of its focal areas. Luckily for us, we were adopted. They built an
Agricultural Research and Extension Outreach Centre (AREOC) for us; facilitated
us into forming strong farmers groups; linked us to credit facilities with a
Microfinance Bank in Zaria and provided us several extension materials from
which we learn a lot in agricultural production, marketing and utilization.
Through the NAERLS Adopted village project, the STMA Promotional team
got to us, and this tremendously changed our life. My major concern in my maize
farms had been on how to access maize varieties that can withstand long dry
spells, striga-infested soils and soils low on nitrogen. The STMA Project is
like a miracle, a godsend! The team work with us farmers as equals in the
agricultural venture, not like some ‘superior people’. The field demonstrations
we had together was very participatory, a learning process for all of us.
Besides linking us to seeds and other agro-input suppliers, we receive so much
extension and advisory support from them.
Just in three years (2016-2018), my story has changed! The STMA project
empowered me with the necessary information and linkages to become a proud
farmer again! My 2018 harvest was a bumper. And I’m not the only one; all of us
that embraced the STMA innovation have been smiling to the bank, and we’re well
respected in our community. I recently purchased a new motorbike and I
conveniently feed my household with nutritious foods through proceeds from my
maize farms. My children are all back to our schools of choice and high
standards. My shop in Samaru Market is fully stocked. In all, I am happy to be
identified with the NAERLS-STMA team.
recognition of the impact of STMA activities on our farming businesses in Biye
community, our farmers’ cooperatives presented to NAERLS a Distinguished Award
of Excellence in supporting development activities in the community.