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