search for maize
that requires less water
of the project will bring double benefits
to Africa’ s small scale farmers and improve the
continent’s vulnerable food security situation
REPORT BY XINHUA CORRESPONDENT
(Xinhua) -- Every
time there is rainfall shortage in the highlands of
Sub-Sahara Africa, one of the first casualties is the
maize crop. It wilts and dries up.
in Kenya’s Central and Rift Valley highlands, the
adequacy of rainfall or lack of it is often known by
monitoring the growth pattern of the maize crop, the
predominant food crop grown in these regions.
the crop starts to wilt, it is usually an indication
that in that season, the rains will be inadequate and
the harvest will be minimal or at worse nil.
relation between maize and rainfall may not a big
issue until one appreciates the fact that nearly a
half of the Africa population depends on maize as the
staple food and that maize growing is almost
exclusively under rain fed agriculture according to
the Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technology
reality is the reason behind efforts by a group of
crop scientists drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania,
South Africa and Mozambique are currently engaged in
intensive research to come up with maize varieties
that require less water to grow and therefore less
project is known as Water Efficient Maize for Africa
project (WEMA). Dr. Stephen Muga, a plant breeder at
the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
said research is on course and Kenya expects to have
first results of its project by mid-2013.
are looking forward to successful result,” he said
on Wednesday during an interview on the sidelines of
scientists involved in the project meeting in
Nairobi to compare research progress. Other
countries have also reported progress.
project is seen as crucial for Africa especially when
the effects of climate change are starting to be felt.
Three quarters of the world’s severe droughts in the
last 10 years have happened in Africa, according to
the highlands for instance, rainfall periods are
becoming shorter forcing and drier periods and colder
seasons have become intense and longer, conditions
that are not good for the rain intensive crops that
have traditionally been grown in this areas.
project is expected to address the core problem of
water management in Africa where despite the high
potential, faring through irrigation has been
neglected because of inadequacy of water management
project, if successful will enable the vast marginal
areas across Africa to become food producers by
growing varieties that do not require much rainfall.
will enable small scale farmers in these areas to
enjoy higher level of household food security.
efficient maize variety will supplement efforts by the
insurance companies in Sub-Sahara Africa to caution
predominant maize farmers through a micro-insurance
product that triggers compensation based on weather
will also help food vulnerable countries like Kenya
end the food import cycle that increases the cost of
consumer food prices and reduces the country’s
foreign exchange reserves.
research is being carried out simultaneously at the
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Instituto de
Investiga ao Agraria de Mo ambique, Agricultural
Research Council of South Africa, Tanzania’s
Commission of Science and Technology and Uganda’s
National Agricultural Research Organization.
research is completed, the project will transfer seed
breeding technology to the seed companies for eventual
distribution to the farmers.
Rakotoarisaona, the Secretary General African Seed
Trade Association said the success of this project
will depend on how well farmers are enabled to access
the right seeds.
this project, there is a need to continue lobbying
for polices that target and encourage investments in
seed bleeding. The private sector should take up
this role and ensure that seeds reach the farmers at
the most affordable cost,” he said.
project has also extended research to developing
varieties that also are resistance to pest infections.
Pests are a major problem in Africa agriculture but
the growing adoption of genetically modified crops may
reduce the impact of pests on crops.
success of the project will bring double benefits to
Africa’ s small scale farmers and improve the
continent’s vulnerable food security situation and
it likely to increase maize output per acreage.
is a public-private partnership started in 2008,
coordinated by the African Agricultural Technology
Foundation (AATF) and funded by the Bill and Melinda
Gates and Howard G. Buffett Foundations.
you read it first at coastweek.com