Farmers adopting drought tolerant Maize in Makueni county, Kenya

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.

Journalists from Sweden in action to understand how maize breeding can help Kenyan farmers adapt to climate change. Photo : CIMMYT/Bossuet

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.

Dolly Muatha, demo farmer in Makueni county shows her maize grain surplus.
Photo: CIMMYT/Masinde

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, his wife and son in front of their house, near Wote. Photo: CIMMYT/Masinde

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.

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

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jbossuet

Agriculture expert and research-for-development communications specialist with 20 years international development experience including food and nutrition security projects in Africa and Asia. I work at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Nairobi to showcase the impact of maize and wheat science for better livelihoods in Africa. I am interested in any new solutions to key development challenges like fight against malnutrition, gender gap, how to scale sustainable intensification practices.
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