Guatemala forms part of the center of origin of maize, and is home to a large amount of the staple crop’s genetic diversity. Smallholder farmers are the guardians of much of this diversity in the form of landraces, native maize varieties passed down through generations that are prized for their flavor and use in traditional dishes. These landraces are gaining interest in the culinary community, and many chefs are willing to pay more for traditional maize varieties. A recent study from scientists working with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) investigated whether facilitating the emergence of niche markets for local maize varieties in the western highlands of Guatemala could contribute to poverty reduction.
MEXICO CITY (CIMMYT) – The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has grown 150 tons of renewed, improved maize seed that will be sent to Haitian farmers to help jump-start the country’s seed sector, improve local food security and decrease malnutrition. This will be the largest seed shipment to any country in CIMMYT’s history.
In 1998, CIMMYT, together with the Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment, introduced a new quality protein maize variety in Haiti. Named “Hugo” for CIMMYT maize breeder Hugo Córdova, the variety grew well under the island’s agro-ecological conditions and can decrease malnutrition and stunting among children that consume it. The product of decades of maize research in Haiti and Latin America, Hugo quickly became a favorite among farmers, but over time lost its genetic purity due to a lack of certified seed production and yields began to drop.
Now, CIMMYT is working to help Haiti build their seed sector from the ground up, from developing improved seed to replace old varieties to providing capacity development at every level of the maize seed value chain, with incredible results.
Flashback: In early 2015, Kenya’s National Irrigation Board (NIB) purchased Aflasafe to help deal with aflatoxin contamination in maize, a predicament afflicting some of its irrigation schemes. For example, in most years, the UN’s World Food Programme was unable to purchase maize from the towns of Hola and Bura in Kenya owing to excessive aflatoxin. Fastforward to 2017: What were the results of this NIB purchase then, and today, two years on? Read on!
by Kelah Kaimenyi
For over 50 years, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), lead center of the CGIAR Research program on Maize (MAIZE), has led the research and development of quality, improved maize seed, designed to help farmers mitigate the effects of climate change while improving livelihoods.
Every new variety released is driven by farmer needs and preferences, with desirable traits such as pest and disease resistance, drought and heat tolerance as well as water and nutrient use efficiency. With improved maize seed, farmers not only benefit from increased stress tolerance, they also enjoy higher yields, increased nutritional value and improved income from grain sales.