Hildegarde Dukunde has a mission: to make sure the DryCard, an inexpensive device developed by researchers at the University of California-Davis (UC Davis) to determine if food is dry enough to prevent the growth of mold and harmful aflatoxins, reaches as many farmers as possible. The 28-year old Rwanda native works as a sales associate in agrifood business and was recently recognized for her innovative work by the 2019 Maize Youth Innovators Awards – Africa, winning in the “change agent” category at an awards ceremony in Lusaka, Zambia on May 9.
Admire Shayanowako is no stranger to agriculture or the
problems that smallholder farmers in Africa face. The 31-year old maize
researcher grew up on a small farm in Zimbabwe where his family was constantly
plagued by parasitic weeds. Now based at the University of Kwazulu Natal in
South Africa, he is working on biocontrol agents and maize genetic resistance
against Striga, also known as “witch weed”. He was recently recognized for his
innovative research as one of the winners of the 2019 Maize Youth Innovators
Awards – Africa, in the category of “researcher” at an awards ceremony in
Lusaka, Zambia on May 9.
Partners of the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project held their annual meeting May 7–9, 2019, in Lusaka, Zambia, to review the achievements of the past year and to discuss the priorities going forward. Launched in 2016, the STMA project aims to develop multiple stress-tolerant maize varieties for diverse agro-ecologies in sub-Saharan Africa, increase genetic gains for key traits preferred by the smallholders, and make these improved seeds available at scale in the target countries in partnership with local public and private seed sector partners.
Steep population growth and changing dietary preferences will quadruple maize demand in sub-Saharan Africa. Can production keep up? At what cost to climate change?
Using data from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria in West Africa and from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in East Africa, our research shows that average production of 1.7 t/ha of maize in 2010 must increase to 6.8 t/ha to meet estimated demand in 2050.
To achieve this, per-hectare maize output must grow by about 3.5% per year, a rate never witnessed at national or supra-national scales anywhere in the world in rainfed agriculture.
Corresponding nutrient inputs must grow by over 7% annually to prevent further soil depletion and degradation.
Are such yield increases possible?
Our answer is a resounding yes. Using the Global Yield Gap Atlas, we calculated an average rainfed yield ceiling of 9.2 t/ha for maize across the nine countries, with area-weighted country averages ranging from 6 t/ha in Tanzania to over 12 t/ha in Ethiopia.