Project to improve maize productivity in Africa launched

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A global maize and wheat research organization said Tuesday it has a new project aimed at improving maize productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement center (CIMMYT) and its partners launched Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) to diminish devastating environmental effects in maize production that occur simultaneously across many regions in SSA.

"STMA will use modern breeding technologies that will confer the desired resistance to pests and diseases and tolerance to climatic stresses like drought and heat to benefit farmers within their socio-economic capabilities, that often dictate their access to important farm inputs like fertilizers and improved seed," Tsedeke Abate, Project Leader of STMA said on Tuesday.

Under the project a new and improved varieties and hybrids with resistance and tolerance to drought, low soil fertility, heat, diseases such as Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) and pests will be developed.

Over 35 million hectares of cultivated maize in SSA is rain fed and is vulnerable to climate change thus leading to frequent drought in farmers' fields.

At the same time, maize productivity is further reduced by low fertility soils prevalent in most parts of SSA, yet the majority of smallholder farmers cannot afford the recommended amounts of nitrogen fertilizers.

These, in addition to other stresses increase the risk of crop failure that negatively affects income, food security and nourishment of millions of smallholder farmers and their families.

STMA will draw from successes and lessons of the just concluded Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) and Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS) projects, which successfully developed and deployed over 250 improved drought-tolerant and nitrogen-use efficient maize varieties benefiting more than 43 million people in the region.

Abate said that the new stress tolerant varieties and hybrids will increase maize productivity by 30-50 percent for smallholders in 12 countries-Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Benin, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria.

The four-year project will put improved maize varieties in the hands of nearly five and a half million smallholder households by end of 2019.

"The project is taking women's participation across the maize value chain from production to retail very seriously," Abate added.

STMA will link up with national and regional initiatives to develop strategies that bridge the yield gap and dramatically increase maize productivity at smallholder farm levels.

This continued collaboration with partners will enhance sustainable maize research and development systems in target countries through sustained variety release, deployment and adoption, which has thus far been insufficient in many SSA countries.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the national research organizations within the target countries and small and medium seed companies are partnering in this endeavor. Enditem

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