A farmer shucks cobs of hybrid maize in Malawi. Photo: Peter Lowe/CIMMYT.
The agricultural research sector is taking aim at a longtime foe of African smallholder farmers — old seeds.
More than 100 research partners and funders will meet in Kampala, Uganda from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 2017 to discuss ways to encourage Africa’s seed sector to replace old maize varieties with new, robust and more resilient varieties and help smallholders realize yield potential amid climate change challenges.
The meeting, to be opened by Hon. Vincet Bamulangaki Sempiija, Uganda’s minister of agriculture, marks the first anniversary of the launch of the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project. STMA was launched in Africa to help smallholders mitigate the impact of combined multiple stresses affecting maize farming, including, heat, drought, poor soil fertility, Striga and such diseases as Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN), Gray leaf spot, Turcicum leaf blight among others.
Research on maize improvement by international agricultural research centers and partners in SSA is increasing harvests in the region and enhancing farmers’ lives.
In Nigeria, farmers say that improved varieties are addressing constraints such as the parasitic weed Striga, drought, poor soil fertility and pests and diseases that limit productivity, reduce yield and make farming unattractive. For farmer Hajiya Hafsatu Riruwai the encounter with improved maize technologies last year brought a profound change to her life.
Efforts to improve the productivity and production of maize in DR Congo have received a boost as trials across the various agroecological zones in that country show promising results.
Dr Silvestro Meseka, IITA Maize Breeder who is back from the field, reports that the results are the product of a collaborative research project on the introduction of improved maize hybrids and varieties that was initiated by IITA in early February 2013 under the CGIAR Research Program MAIZE. First, two senior technicians were invited and trained after which hybrid and variety trials of different maturity groups for evaluation at Mvuazi (Bas Congo), Kipopo (Katanga), and Ngandajika (Kasai- Oriental) were deployed.
According to him, the main purpose of this research was to evaluate and identify high-yielding, adaptable maize hybrids and varieties for release to farmers that will contribute to food security as well as increase income of maize-growing smallholders in DR Congo.