MAIZE strategy


The MAIZE strategy is designed to ensure that publicly funded international agricultural research helps most effectively to double the productivity of maize-based farming systems, making them more resilient and sustainable and significantly increasing farmers’ income and livelihood opportunities. It is about doing more with less land, even as the climate changes and fertilizer, water and labor costs rise.

Our strategy draws upon learning and experiences obtained through decades of extensive partnerships, feedback, successes and challenges in work with national and international research and development partners, both public and private, and including many farming communities. The strategy will also be enriched through new partnerships with institutions and individuals worldwide who share our commitment to reducing poverty and enhancing global food security and environmental sustainability.

Three key Research Strategies:

1. Sustainable intensification and income opportunities for the poor

This Research Strategy aims to both pilot and scale-up and scale-out profitable, resource-efficient maize-based farming systems and value chain innovations with the aim to improve system productivity, resilience, sustainability and increase incomes of smallholders. This impact pathway is currently being spearheaded via three large projects: MasAgro (in Mexico); SIMLESA (in eastern and southern Africa) and CSISA and is supported by a number of smaller bilateral projects and Windows 1&2-funded projects in the same regions.

2. New maize varieties for the poor

New improved maize varieties are seen as a critical vehicle to enhance the lives of the poorest producers and consumers across the target geographies of MAIZE. New improved maize varieties include high-yielding, nutritionally enhanced and stress-tolerant hybrids and open-pollinated varieties (OPVs). Currently, many smallholder farmers across the world use low-yielding, nutritionally poor varieties/landraces, which are susceptible to major abiotic (heat and drought) and biotic (fungal, bacterial and viral) stresses and insect pest (stem borers, etc.).

Research by the private sector is targeted primarily at favorable regions (high rainfall or irrigated) and farmers that are clustered around major markets. MAIZE therefore focuses on farmers that are living in more stress-prone, rainfed environments. New improved maize varieties are tested regionally with national public and private sector partners under ideal conditions, managed stress and farmer conditions. Those varieties that perform better than current varieties under both favorable and stress conditions are being promoted by national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES), seed companies and NGOs.

3. Integrated post-harvest management

The Integrated post-harvest management Research Strategy aims to reduce post-harvest losses and improve food safety and market opportunities (reducing aflatoxin and fumonisin in the value chain) through the commercial production and distribution of maize storage technologies (silos and bags) and aflatoxin bio-control (Aflasafe).

All three Research Strategies are supported by a cross-cutting Strategic Initiative “Socio-economics and Policies for maize futures”.

Theories of change

Development outcomes

Each research Strategy delivers/contributes to delivery of:

  • Output(s) e.g., high-yielding and stress-tolerant maize lines and varieties
    • Immediate Outcome(s) e.g., Improved maize varieties (high-yielding, stress-tolerant, nutrient-enhanced) adapted and promoted by NARS, NGOs, and private seed companies.
    • Intermediate Development Outcomes(s) e.g., Smallholder farmers adopt improved maize varieties (high-yielding, stress-tolerant, nutrient-enhanced) or increased yields of maize for smallholder farmers, increased income of smallholder farmers and increased diet nutrition.
    • Strategic Goal(s) e.g., Enhanced food security, enhanced livelihoods, enhanced nutrition and improved health
    • System Level Outcomes e.g., Increasing food security, reducing rural poverty and improving nutrition and health

How do we plan to put research into action?

All CGIAR research programs have a theory of change (ToC) and associated ‘intermediate development outcomes’ (IDO) that contribute to the overall strategy and results framework (SRF) and system level outcomes (SLO) of the CGIAR Consortium. Each Research Strategy is supported by its own theory of change and associated development outcomes. 

We have identified nine areas that can help turn the table on food security by addressing maize-based farming systems. Read more about our Strategic Initiatives and Flagship Projects