A recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute
estimates that rainfed maize yields in countries in northern Central America
are at the highest risk of crop loss as a result of climate change in the
Maize crops occupy more than 36% of total cultivated land in
Central America and almost 19% in the Andean countries. IFPRI’s study examined
potential impacts of climate change through the year 2050. According to the
results, Costa Rica is expected to suffer the hardest blow to maize yields, at
an almost 17% loss, with Honduras following behind at around 12%.
The CGIAR Research Program on
Maize (MAIZE) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 MAIZE Youth
Innovators Awards – Latin America. This is the third instalment of the awards,
in October 2018 and Africa
in May 2019. These awards recognize the contributions of young women and men
under 35 who are implementing innovations in Latin American maize-based
agri-food systems, including research-for-development, seed systems,
agribusiness, and sustainable intensification.
Nominations are now open for the 2019 MAIZE Youth Innovators Awards – Latin America! These awards are part of the efforts that the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) is undertaking to promote youth participation in maize based agri-food systems. These awards recognize the contributions of young women and men below 35 years of age who are implementing innovations in Latin American maize-based agri-food systems, including research-for-development, seed systems, agribusiness, and sustainable intensification.
Felipa Martinez shows off some of her family’s maize from last year’s harvest. Photo: Matthew O’Leary
Felipa Martinez, an indigenous Mexican grandmother, grins as she shows off a bag bulging with maize cobs saved from last harvest season. With her family, she managed to farm enough maize for the year despite the increasing pressure brought by climate change.
Felipa’s grin shows satisfaction. Her main concern is her family, the healthy harvest lets her feed them without worry and sell the little left over to cover utilities.
“When our crops produce a good harvest I am happy because we don’t have to spend our money on food. We can make our own tortillas and tostadas,” she said.
Her family belongs to the Chatino indigenous community and lives in the small town of Santiago Yaitepec in humid southern Oaxaca. They are from one of eleven marginalized indigenous communities throughout the state involved in a participatory breeding project with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) to naturally improve the quality and preserve the biodiversity of native maize.
These indigenous farmers are custodians of maize biodiversity, growing seeds passed down over generations. Their maize varieties represent a portion of the diversity of the 59 native Mexican races of maize, or landraces, which first developed from wild grasses at the hands of their ancestors. These different races (or types) of maize diversified through generations of selective breeding, adapting to the environment, climate and cultural needs of the different communities.