“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.
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.
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 STMA Bulletin – 17-10-2019vf
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.