New Atlas of African Agriculture Research and Development illustrates maize prospects in SSA

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has published a set of maps and analyses — the Atlas of African Agriculture Research & Development — created by leading researchers to illustrate the current state of, challenges and prospects for agricultural productivity in Africa.

With over 30 sets of maps covering the themes of political, demographic and institutional classifications, the footprint of agriculture, growing conditions, the role of water, drivers of change, access to trade and human welfare, the Atlas is created in the belief that ‘a better understanding of the spatial patterns and processes of agriculture research and development in Africa can contribute to better-targeted policy and investment decisions and, ultimately, to better livelihoods for the rural poor.’

In Sub-Saharan Africa, rainfed maize farming is the predominant system, meaning that weather fluctuations can have a direct impact on food security and incomes. Two sets of maps within the Atlas directly address the prospects for maize farming in this area.

Effects of Rainfall Variability on Maize Yields

For these maps, IFPRI’s Jawoo Koo and Cindy Cox input historical weather data and soil databases into the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) v4.5 model to map rainfall variability in Sub-Saharan Africa, and then estimate the variability of potential maize yields in the region. Two further maps explore the impact of farmers using either high or low levels of inputs.

The authors write that this kind of information can help farmers and other stakeholders make climate-based decisions about what crops to grow, which farming systems and management practices are most suitable in any given location and where more investment and resources are needed.

Similar research funded by MAIZE CRP has also shown it is possible to predict to what extent farmers facing increased rainfall variability due to climate change may benefit by adopting conservation agriculture practices.

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View the original maps here.

Maize Yield Potential

In these maps, Jawoo Koo shows the gap between current maize yields in Sub-Saharan rainfed agriculture, and their potential if key yield constraints such as soil deficiencies can be overcome. If improved soil management practices can be put in place, around 55 percent of the area currently under rainfed maize production could achieve yields of over three tons per hectare, the threshold at which the basic subsistence needs of smallholder families are likely to be met.

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View the original maps here.

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