Maize is the most important staple crop in the world.
Is drought-resilient maize an answer to pressure on African farmers through climate change? The Center for Development Research (ZEF) organised a panel of experts to address this topic in Bonn, Germany.
Maize is an important staple food crop in most of sub-Saharan Africa, and it is grown on around 33 million of the total 194 million hectares under cultivation in the region. However, El Niño and global warming have had a dramatic effect on farming in many areas. The 2015-2016 El Niño event was one of the strongest on record. Among the countries affected in Africa was Ethiopia, which saw its worst drought in decades. The country, which is the continent’s fifth-largest maize producer, suffered huge crop losses, and an estimated 1.35 million farmers were left without new seed.
NAIROBI, Kenya – Smallholder farmers in eastern, southern and western Africa are facing a major threat to their crops from the fall armyworm, which has so far damaged almost 300,000 hectares of maize.
To address this rapidly unfolding emergency, about 130 experts and stakeholders from African governments, international and national agricultural research organizations, non-governmental organizations, national plant protection organizations, development partners, and donor agencies will meet on April 27 and 28, 2017 in Nairobi to discuss and develop an effective management strategy against the fall armyworm pest in Africa.
By Brenda Wawa
Maize plants damaged by fall armyworm in a farmer’s field in southern Malawi in Balaka District. CIMMYT/Christian Thierfelder.
Smallholder farmers in eastern and southern Africa are facing a new threat as a plague of intrepid fall armyworms creeps across the region, so far damaging an estimated 287,000 hectares of maize.
Since mid-2016, scientists with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and national agricultural research partners have been monitoring reports of sightings of the fall armyworm in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Surveys conducted in 2016 in farmers’ fields confirmed the pest is present in Kenya. The threat of the pest spreading into other eastern Africa countries is a significant risk since the region has similar planting seasons.
CIMMYT maize breeder, Thokozile Ndhlela (left), inspects a maize trial field with smallholder farmer, Otilia Chirova, in Mashonaland East, Zimbabwe. Photo: Johnson Siamachira/CIMMYT.
Little did 47-year-old Thokozile Ndhlela know that growing up in a rural area in Zimbabwe would inspire her to become a well-respected agricultural scientist, helping to transform agriculture by developing science-based solutions to some of the complex issues facing African farmers.
Currently a postdoctoral staff member with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, Ndhlela encourages girls to choose options that lead to careers in agriculture. Most farmers worldwide average an age of over 60, so Ndhlela’s work is also helping to encourage young people to get involved in agriculture.