How to build gender-sensitive seed systems, share your experience on Nov. 21

Posted on Eastern Africa News, Media&Stories, News, News & Stories, News release, Press room, Seed System News, Seed Systems, November 14, 2019

Young woman displaying freshly harvested high-yielding maize in Western Kenya-credit CIMMYT-Joshua Masinde

”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.

”This is really a seed market missed by some seed stakeholders”, Adam adds.

She will speak at a webinar ”Gender and Seed Systems” on November 21, 2019, organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Maize and hosted by the CGIAR collaborative platform for gender research.

Rahma Adam will share STMA experience in seed systems that work for women, be it seed entrepreneur, seed grower, farmer, agrodealer or other positions in this sector still dominated by men.

Other speakers are Shawn McGuire, 20 years experience on smallholder seed systems and seed security matters, working at the FAO; and Esther Njuguna-Mungai, social scientist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and involved more recently on gender-sensitive legumes seed systems.

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.

Delivering good and stable yields for small scale farmers: Western Seed’s growing success in Eastern and Southern Africa

Posted on Eastern Africa News, Eastern Africa News, Media&Stories, News & Stories, Seed System News, Seed Systems, November 3, 2019

“Introducing a new maize variety needs a great deal of investment. You need to build a convincing business case for varietal turnover. Some new varieties may do well for certain traits, but there are other factors other than yield to consider, for instance, producibility, cost of seed production and farmers preferences.” says Saleem Esmail, CEO of Western Seed.

Saleem Esmail at the CIMMYT-KALRO MLN Screening in Naivasha during the Annual Partners Field day in Naivasha on August 28, 2010. Photo: Joshua Masinde/CIMMYT

Western Seed and CIMMYT have a long-standing collaboration since the Africa Maize Stress project over the past twenty years. Access to improved drought and disease resistant germplasm and use of the double haploid platform in Kiboko, Kenya help the company maize breeding program. Western Seed collaborates actively in CIMMYT’s regional trials.

Joseph Kaitaand his wife Alice Kaita display large cobs of maize cobs they just harvested from their farm. They plant the WH507 drought and disease tolerant variety, which guarantees them a harvest even in times of little rainfall. Photo: Joshua Masinde/CIMMYT

Western Seed hybrids help smallholder farmers like Margaret Wafula and the Kaita family in western Kenya, get good maize harvests despite the numerous challenges like drought and diseases.

Read more about the Western Seed case study here.

Seeds of prosperity: Equator Seeds, Northern Uganda

Posted on Eastern Africa News, Eastern Africa News, Media&Stories, News & Stories, News Articles, Publications, Seed System News, Seed Systems, November 3, 2019

“80 percent of farmers in northern Uganda still use the farm-saved or recycled seed, which we consider as our biggest competitor. ”

Dorine Akoth, a demo-farmer in Gulu northern Uganda, admiring a maize plant on her demo plot. Photo: Joshua Masinde/CIMMYT.

“ Through demonstrations and our local seed marketing network, farmers can see how well the drought and disease tolerant hybrid UH5051 performs, even under erratic climate. This has helped them to gradually adopt our improved seed.” says Equator Seeds CEO, Tonny Okello.

A worker at the Equator Seeds processing plant in Gulu displaying 2-kg UH5051 maize seed packs. Photo: Joshua Masinde/CIMMYT

Discover this successful partnership between STMA and Equator Seeds to reach out maize smallholder farmers in Northern Uganda and South Sudan to improve their productivity and resilience here

Scoring new drought tolerant CIMMYT lines in Kiboko 5 Sept 2019

Posted on Activities, Eastern Africa News, galleries, Media&Stories, PhotoStories, Research News, September 12, 2019

CIMMYT breeders selecting new CIMMYT line candidates in stage 4, scoring hybrid entries according to their drought tolerance in Kiboko research station – 5 September 2019

CIMMYT breeders scoring DT maize in Kiboko 5 September 2019
CIMMYT breeders scoring DT maize in Kiboko 5 September 2019
CIMMYT breeder scoring DT maize in Kiboko
CIMMYT breeder scoring DT maize in Kiboko
Suresh and Aparna ranking DT maize entries in Kiboko 5 Sept 2019
Suresh and Aparna ranking DT maize entries in Kiboko 5 Sept 2019
Cob not well covered by husk is prone to attacks Kiboko Sept 2019
Cob not well covered by husk is prone to attacks Kiboko Sept 2019
Stay green entry 52 DT maize in Kiboko
Stay green entry 52 DT maize in Kiboko 5 Sept 2019
Entry 42 DT maize cob in Kiboko
Entry 42 maize cob in Kiboko
Entry 42 during CIMMYT DT line evaluation in Kiboko Sept 2019
Checking grain filling in DT maize cob in Kiboko Sept 2019
Checking grain filling in DT maize cob in Kiboko Sept 2019
Staygreen late maturity hybrid in Kiboko Sept 2019
Staygreen late maturity hybrid in Kiboko Sept 2019
a good low N maize hybrid
Good low N maize hybrid in Kiboko
Comparison between maize that respond well to low N and commercial check
Comparison between good and bad low N maize
Shelling Low N maize cobs in Kiboko for yield measurement
Shelling low N maize cobs in Kiboko
Weighing low N maize trial
weighing low N maize trial
Close tip Maize cob in CIMMYT DT line evaluation in Kiboko

Ethiopian maize farmers fast adopting new drought-tolerant maize hybrid to boost their productivity and resilience.

Posted on dtma, Eastern Africa News, Eastern Africa News, News, News & Stories, Newsletter, Seed System News, July 11, 2019

‘’Getting a good maize harvest every year, even when it does not rain much, is important for my family’s welfare’’ says Sequare Regassa, a widow and mother of four, while feeding her granddaughter with white injera, a rollable flatbread, made of white grain maize.

Sequare Regassa feeding her grand-daughter (credit: CIMMYT / Simret Yasabu)

Since her husband died, Sequare has been for many years the only bread winner for her family. Her children have grown up and established their own families. The whole extended family makes a living from their eight-hectare farm in Guba Sayo district in Oromia Zone, Ethiopia.

On the two hectares Sequare cultivates on her own, she rotates maize with pepper, sweet potato and anchote, a local tuber similar to cassava. Like many farming families in the region, she primarily grows maize for household food consumption, prepared as bread, soup, porridge and snacks. Maize represents a third of cereals grown in Ethiopia. Cheaper than wheat or teff (a traditional millet grain in Ethiopia), maize is important for poor households as they mix maize flour with teff to make the national staple injera.

During a field visit in mid-April, Sequare was busy preparing the land for the next cropping season. She wondered if rains will be good this year as the onset of rainy season was quite late. Choice of maize variety could be crucial.

She used to plant a late maturing hybrid released more than 25 years ago, BH660, the most popular variety in the early 2000’s. However, this variety was not selected for drought tolerance. Ethiopian farmers face increasing drought risks, like the recent 2015 El Nino dry spell, severely impacting staple crop production, and leading to food insecurity and grain price volatility.

Convincing demonstrations for farmers and seed companies

Under the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project, maize breeders from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR) developed promising drought tolerant hybrids which perform well under drought and normal conditions. After a series of evaluations, BH661 emerged as the best candidate with 10% better on-farm grain yield, higher biomass production, shorter maturity and 34 percent reduction in lodging, compared to BH660. BH661 was released in 2011 for commercial cultivation in the mid-altitude sub-humid and transition highlands.

The year after, as farmers experienced drought, the Ethiopian extension service organized BH661 on-farm demonstrations, while EIAR  and CIMMYT breeders organized Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) trials. Farmers were impressed by the outstanding performances of BH661 during these demos and PVS trials and started asking for seeds immediately, forcing seed companies to quickly scale-up certified seed production of this new drought tolerant hybrid.

The Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) team assisted local seed companies to switch to BH661 in a series of trainings and varietal trials. They were rapidly convinced as well to replace the old hybrid, BH660. ‘’In addition to drought tolerance, BH661 is more resistant to important maize diseases like Turcicum Leaf Blight and Grey Leaf Spot. For seed companies, there is no change in the way the hybrid is produced compared to BH660, but seed production of BH661 is much more cost-effective, ’’ explained Dagne Wegary, CIMMYT maize breeder.

The national Bako National Maize Research Center supplied breeder seeds to certified seed producers—namely, Amhara Seed Enterprise (ASE), Bako Agricultural Research Center (BARC), Ethiopian Seed Enterprise (ESE), Oromia Seed Enterprise (OSE) and South Seed Enterprise (SSE). Certified seeds were then distributed through seed companies’ own sales teams, agricultural offices, and non- governmental organizations, with the technical and extension support of research centers.

Weatherproof hybrid harvests additional incomes

After witnessing the performance of BH661 in a neighbor’s field, Sequare asked advice from her local extension officer, and decided to adopt this hybrid along with recommended agronomic practices. She is now able to produce between 11-12 tons per hectare. She said her family life has changed forever since she started planting BH661.

Sequare Regassa in front of her field, prepared for maize planting
(credit: CIMMYT / Simret Yasabu)

‘’If farmers follow the recommended fertilizer application and other farming practices, BH661 performs much better than the old BH660 variety,’’ explained Sequare. “If we experience a drought, it may be not that bad thanks to BH 661’s drought tolerance,’’ she added. Sequare buys her improved seeds from Bako Research Station, as well as from farmers’ Cooperative Unions (FCU). The FCU access seeds from various seed companies and sell to farmers in their respective districts. ‘’Many around me are interested in growing BH661. Sometimes we may get less seeds than requested as the demand exceeds the supply.’’  

With higher maize grain harvest, she is now able to better feed her chickens, sheep and cattle. She also sells some surplus to the local market to get some additional income, which she will spend on household necessities. Sequare observed that maize prices increased in recent years, with 100 kg bag of maize sold at ETB 600 – 700 ($20-23), while it had previously been sold between ETB 200 – 400 ($7-14). With the increased farmers’ wealth in her village, families were able to pay collectively for the installation of a communal water point to get easy access to clean water.

‘’Like women’s role in a society, no one can forget the role maize has in our community. It feeds us, it feeds our animals, cobs are used as fuel. A successful maize harvest every year is a boon for our village,’’ Sequare concluded. 

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