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.
“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
Discover some of the recent maize breeding and seed systems work of the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa initiative, covering the period April to June 2019. STMA addresses multiple stresses affecting smallholder maize farmers in Africa. Read More
“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.
Tabitha Kamau, 29, is scrutinizing a maize demonstration
plot on which 12 different varieties were planted in November 2018. “What I am
looking for is a maize variety that produces a lot, even when there is scarce
rainfall,” says the single mother of three, who lives in Katheini location with
her mother on a quarter an acre of land.
Together with 350 other smallholder farmers from Katheini
and neighboring villages of Machakos County, a water stress region, Kamau is
assessing the maize crops and ranking them based on her preferred traits.
Like her peers when asked what makes a good maize
variety, she gives high scores to drought tolerant (DT) varieties and those
that can yield large and nicely filled cobs despite the prolonged dry spell
over the last two months. For five years, Kamau has been planting KDV4, a DT open
pollinated variety (OPV) on the family land and another piece of leased plot. This
early variety matures in 100 to 110 days and adapted to the dry mid-altitude
KDV4 was released by the Kenya Agricultural &
Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) using the International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center (CIMMYT)’s germplasm. It is currently marketed by Dryland
Seed Company and Freshco Seeds, targeting primarily farmers in the water-stress
counties of Machakos, Kitui and Makueni in the lower eastern regions of Kenya.
The early maturity attribute of varieties like KDV
presents a good opportunity for its adopters, says Kamau. “If I am able to
harvest in three and a half months or less compared to four months or more for other
varieties, I can sell some grain to neighbors still awaiting their harvest and
want to feed their families.”
“I heard of new varieties that can germinate well and
produce lots of leaves,” Catherine Musembi says. This woman farmer from Kivaani
location looks for maize that performs well even under heat and water stress.
She likes maize plants with high biomass, as the foliage is used to feed the family’s
three cows and two goats.
farmers’ perspective to keep research demand-driven
The Social-Economics Program (SEP) team at the
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has been undertaking
participatory maize variety evaluations since 2016 in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and
Tanzania, in locations where the regional on-farm trials have been planted
every year during the main maize growing season. The Machakos farmer varietal selection was facilitated by a team from KALRO Katumani on February 18-19, 2019. This exercise is part of the
2018 mid-season evaluations, which will then culminate in end-season
assessments a month later.
Participatory farmer evaluations are used to give crucial
feedback to our maize breeding work. First, farmers get an opportunity to state
what traits are important for them and rank them according to their importance.
Then, participants evaluate varieties planted in the trial and give a score on
individual trait and the overall performance for each variety planted. And they
conclude the exercise by rating the best three plots.
“Our work is to tease out the information regarding
which traits contribute to a good score in the overall score’’, Bernard Munyua,
SEP Research Assistant CIMMYT explains. Statistical analysis of the farmers
score cards will reveal if the criteria importance stated initially play a strong
role in the overall appreciation of a variety. For instance, farmers may give
high importance to height or biomass, yet it may not play a role in their
ranking of best varieties.
‘’Such data is important to maize breeders to support future
variety improvement work,” Munyua notes. “Moreover, by dis-aggregating the farmers
opinions by region and socioeconomic attributes such as gender, education and
income, we can define the priority traits by region or farmers socioeconomic
profiles. It helps better target maize breeding work according to the needs on
the ground and gives useful knowledge to seed companies for their seed
marketing strategy’’, he adds.
For instance, in the Eastern part of Kenya, farmers
might be interested in traits such as drought tolerance, early maturity and
disease resistance. In central Kenya where dairy farming is commonly practiced,
a variety with more biomass can be an important factor. In western Kenya, they
could be more interested in grain yields and cob characteristics to improve
their sales after harvest.
Agnes Nthambi, the farmer who hosted the demonstration plot, is very
positive about her participation, as she learned about some
of the ideal agronomic practices as well as the performance of new varieties. “On
this trial, I learned that spacing was about two times shorter than we are
generally used to. Even with the more constricted spacing, the maize has
performed much better than what we are used to seeing,” she says. She also
learned that fertilizer is applied at the time of planting. In her case, she
normally applies fertilizer much later after germination has already occurred.
Nthambi says her family cannot afford losing both the
fertilizer and the seed in case the rains fail. This time, she expects a good
harvest from the one-acre farm, to supplement her family income.