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
Swedish journalists Eric Abel and Anna Liljemalm who are writing a book on climate change and seed visited the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa project in Kenya from Sept. 9-11, 2019.
We met some farmers who adopted drought tolerant maize hybrid SAWA from Dryland Seeds Ltd (DSL) in drought-prone Makueni county.
Dolly Muatha is a 49 years-old demo farmer with four children.
Because her fields are well placed near the road, she has benefited for the last three years from DSL support to demonstrate the yield potential of SAWA DT maize in this terraced landscape.
Dolly likes SAWA ‘’because it produces 2 to three beautiful cobs and it matures early. In case rains stop when the maize is at knee height, even before tassel and silks form, that is where you see its potential compared to non-drought tolerant varieties.’’
Alex Somba 45 year-old farmer near Wote saw how SAWA performed at Muatha’s farm and tried it out in 2017.
He usually practices dry planting from October 1, as rains usually start around the third or end October, until end of the year.
‘’SAWA beats other popular hybrids because of its early maturity and drought tolerance. It resists well to Grey Leaf Spot and grain stores well, resists weevil.’’
‘’If rains start end of October and after 2 weeks of rains there is a dry spell of 2 weeks, other varieties will perform badly whereas SAWA copes relatively well with such erratic rains patterns,’’ he added.
Providing good agronomic advice to the farmers is important to benefit fully from new varieties. Joyce, DSL field officer pointed out that ‘’ a good advice I usually give for farmers like Alex is optimum crop spacing.’’ For better yields, she would advise to practice 20cm x 30 cm spacing, one seed at a time. Traditionally farmers would put up to 5 seeds per planting hole, which will generate small cobs and much lower yields.
In 2018, Bill Gates launched a campaign
about climate change, because he worried not enough people understood the
dimensions of the problem. In a
blog post, he reminded readers that not only the energy sector is concerned,
but also “the other 75%” — in particular agriculture and food systems. We need
innovations to reduce our carbon footprint, Gates explained, but also to help
the most vulnerable to cope with the effects of growing climate risks.
Rainfed smallholder farming families in
sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk, as their livelihoods depend on
unpredictable rainfall patterns. By the 2030s drought and rising temperatures
could render 40% of the continent’s maize-growing area unsuitable
for current varieties.
Drought-tolerant maize varieties could improve the climate resilience and the livelihoods of millions family farmers across Africa. The innovations offered by these varieties are affordable and scalable.
A team from Gates Notes came to drought-prone
Machakos county in Kenya to visit farmers who are growing drought-tolerant hybrid
maize. This variety, developed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement
Center (CIMMYT) and sold in the county by Dryland Seeds Limited under the SAWA
brand, can yield up to 20% more than other drought-tolerant hybrids, explained
the company’s managing director, Ngila Kimotho.
Despite limited rainfall in the village of Vyulya,
Ms Nduku harvested well-filled maize cobs. Her neighbour, who grows a local
variety, had a less successful harvest.
CIMMYT developed these varieties under the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) initiative, a ten-year project which finished in 2015. This work is continuing under the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) initiative, which is developing maize varieties that cope well with drought and other climate stresses. So far 3.5 million farmers in 13 African countries are benefitting from stress-tolerant maize varieties.
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.