Women and youth help lead efforts to adopt climate-friendly farming and safeguard indigenous maize yields
Farmers walk through a field that has been cleared by slash and burn agriculture in the Yucatan peninsula. Photo: Maria Boa/ CIMMYT
The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico has been hard hit by drought and extreme weather events related to climate change in recent years, exacerbating local poverty and food insecurity. In addition, slash-and-burn agriculture techniques have led to environmental degradation and contribute to climate change. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is working to help indigenous Mayan farming families in the Yucatan peninsula adapt to and mitigate climate change, increasing maize yields and food security while minimizing negative environmental impact. This comes as world leaders mull a crucial decision on agriculture at the UN Climate talks in Bonn, a decision that could support farmers everywhere to take similar actions.
Hugo Plus seed bags ready to be sealed and shipped. Photo: L. Eugene/CIMMYT
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.
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.”
Rural women play a critical role in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.
They provide innumerable benefits to agricultural systems around the world at all levels of the value chain, but their contributions often go unrecognized. This year, for the U.N. International Day of Rural Women (IDRW) on October 15, the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) would like to honor the significant contributions that women make to agriculture around the world by sharing photos and stories via our social media channels from our new book, “Portraits of Women Working with Maize in Mexico.” This nationwide documentary initiative seeks to shine light on the often unseen contributions that rural women make to their families, communities, countries and the world through agriculture.