2015 marked a year of exciting advances in scientific research and strengthened partnerships for the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE). Sixty-four improved maize varieties, based on CIMMYT/IITA germplasm, were released through MAIZE partners in 2015, including 44 in sub-Saharan Africa, 13 in Latin America, and 7 in Asia. In addition to high and stable yield potential, some of the special traits stacked in these varieties include drought tolerance, heat tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency, enhanced protein quality, and resistance to diseases such as tar spot complex, turcicum leaf blight, gray leaf spot, and maize streak virus (MSV), as well as tolerance to the parasitic weed Striga.
Researcher Alejandro Ramirez records the life experience of a farmer in Chiapas, Mexico. Photo: Sam Storr/CIMMYT
With its twisted cables and flickering computer screens, the room commandeered by the GENNOVATE study team at the headquarters of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) near Mexico City looks more like a Silicon Valley hackathon than what most would understand as gender research. Yet up on the main screen, questions are being asked of around 8,000 participants as part of a global gender study.
It is often a mystery why a new agricultural technology or practice can be successful in one community yet fail to have the desired effect in another. Social expectations of how men and women should behave may affect their ability to adopt or benefit from such innovations.
Felix Corzo Jimenez , a farmer in Chiapas, Mexico, examines one of his maize plants infected with tar spot complex.
By Jennifer Johnson, Terry Molnar and Martha Willcox
In southern Mexico and Central America a fungal maize disease known as tar spot complex (TSC) is decimating yields, threatening local food security and livelihoods. In El Portillo, Chiapas, Mexico, local farmer Felix Corzo Jimenez surveys his maize field sadly… “It’s been a terrible year. We’ll be lucky if we harvest even 50 percent of our usual yields.” He fingers a dried up maize leaf covered in tiny black dots, and pulls the husk off of an ear to show the shriveled kernels, poorly filled-in. “Tar spot is ruining our crops.”
“With consistently impressive harvests thanks to DT maize varieties, I’m always assured that my family will have enough food, and I can earn a decent income from selling some grain,” said Piri, a smallholder farmer in Petauke District, Zambia. Photo: CIMMYT/Rodney Lunduka.
Drought-related challenges in Africa call for proactive interventions rather than reactive ones. Every so often a drought hits, jolting the development community into action, and leading to the delivery of food aid to millions of people facing starvation — beneficial efforts in the short term, but futile for achieving lasting change.