Read the latest news from the just concluded Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) initiative. This issue highlights the impact the project has had on farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, how it has helped build resilience of Africa’s smallholder farmers and how the improved maize varieties will enable partners to reach farmers on time to plant and produce maize during the COVID-19 crisis in different countries in SSA. You will also get to read about farmers getting an opportunity to select the stress tolerant varieties they prefer and why varietal taste matters.
Over 400 farmers from Manyatta in Embu County were on February 7, 2020, invited to a demonstration farm to witness the performance of various high yielding, early to medium maturing, drought tolerant maize varieties. Such occasions aim to encourage them to adopt varieties whose traits they preferred the most.
They were invited by the Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK), with the support of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in continuation of the work started under the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa Seed Scaling (DTMASS) project, which was later succeeded by the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) initiative. In attendance were officials from the Embu County government led by its minister in charge of agriculture, Jamleck Muturi, as well as ten seed firms, some of who use CIMMYT’s germplasm for seed propagation and marketing.
Farmers such as 29-year old Nancy Wawira not only learnt of best agronomic practices, but also identified a high yielding, drought tolerant and early maturing variety she hopes to plant on her farm next season.
For others like 52-year-old John Njiru, a father of four children, a higher-yielding variety with a lot of foliage, which remains green even after the maize cob has dried, is what he came looking for. The green maize foliage is significant income source due to demand from livestock keepers. He also feeds his own livestock with it, making substantial savings on animal feed expenditure.
Read the latest news from the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) initiative. This issue highlights stories on how stress tolerant maize is improving the lives of smallholder farmers in northern Uganda, after a two-decade civil war; why stress tolerant maize varieties are good for Africa and how CIMMYT and its partners are making systems work for both men and women, among others. Download the report here.
The Stress Tolerant Maize in Africa (STMA) project team in Nigeria used street theater to drum up messages on how to mitigate stresses affecting maize production in the country. The messages targeted mainly the youth, informing them that with the right stress-resilient seed varieties and the application of recommended agronomic practices, they can turn farming into a lucrative and livelihood improving enterprise. The messages were developed by the STMA team in collaboration with the Adopted Village Project of the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), the Nigerian Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (NIFAAS) and the Theatre and Performing Arts Department of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Local troupes displayed their skills in song, dance and drama to relay messages on the need for youth to venture into climate-smart agriculture to overcome challenges of drought, current and emerging pests and diseases, as well as improve their yield.
Seven such performances were enacted at various markets and streets in Nigeria between August and November 2019. The theme of the street performance was, “Smart people, smart farming”. Since 2017, the STMA team has effectively used this unique campaign method to mobilize communities in rural areas to take adopt stress tolerant maize seed varieties for improved yields and livelihoods.
”Improved maize seed is essential for African farming systems because of its relatively higher yield potential, better adaptation to common biotic and abiotic stresses such as diseases, pests, drought and low nutrients, and more efficient use of water. However, several studies have revealed that women farmers are less likely to use improved seed than men, leading to relatively lower productivity levels. These gender gaps represent real costs not only to women farmers but to their households, rural communities, but also to seed companies and agro-dealers”, says Rahma Adam, gender specialist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Nairobi.
Is there a gender gap in maize seed systems and how to address it?
With widespread support from donors, national governments and research institutions, the seed sector in Eastern and Southern Africa has rapidly evolved in ways that have greatly altered the landscape of seed delivery to smallholder farmers. As the types and volumes of improved maize seeds increase, several questions arise, for instance: How do men and women farmers learn about the performance of these new improved compared to those that they presently grow? Which approaches are most effective in reaching different demographic groups? and How can one ensure that women get opportunities to learn about and access improved maize varieties?
As the types and volumes of improved maize seeds increase, several questions arise, for instance: How do men and women farmers learn about the performance of these new improved compared to those that they presently grow? Which approaches are most effective in reaching different demographic groups? and How can one ensure that women get opportunities to learn about and access improved maize varieties?
If you want to learn more about this issue, register at the webinar here.
Rahma Adam and her colleague Pauline Muindi will also organize a day workshop under the same theme on December, 2 in Nairobi. Many participants across CGIAR, development organisations and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will attend to share their views how to address the gender gaps in seed systems. More information to come.