Ruth Andrea and Maliamu Joni with her daughter harvesting drought- tolerant maize in Tanzania. Photo: Peter Lowe/CIMMYT
DROUGHT TOLERANT MAIZE
PROVIDES BIG BENEFITS
– PASS IT ON!
Like many farmers in the Zaka District of Zimbabwe, Appolonia Marutsvaka has suffered from lower yields in recent years, as drought tightened its grip on the land. But drought tolerant maize seed is giving this smallholder farmer, and others like her, fresh hope.
New varieties are producing tangible benefits, providing more stable yields and higher revenues for producers. Adoption in 13 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to have produced total benefits of US$395 million for farmers and consumers.
“High temperatures directly affect yields, so breeding for the future climate predictions is absolutely essential to maintain current levels of food production,” said Biswanath Das, a maize breeder at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). “Some of these new varieties are yielding up to three times more under heat stressed conditions.”
Despite the clear advantages, one major challenge remains getting drought tolerant maize into the hands of smallholder farmers. A recent study found that while adoption rates are high in some countries – 61% in Malawi – they are still disappointingly low in others. In Zimbabwe, where take-up rates are just 9%, knowledge sharing at seed fairs is being used to present the maize to farmers and help them make informed decisions in coping with drought and climate change.