Maize in Uganda
Maize is one of the major staple foods in Uganda, providing over forty percent of a Ugandan’s daily calorie consumption. To meet the country’s maize demand, most farmers grow some maize on their land, with over two million Ugandans counting on maize as their main source of income.
Maize farmer Grace Maku says her biggest challenge is the lack of adequate rainfall for a decent crop. “Drought simply dries up the maize. Sometimes we have to get water and try to irrigate, but that’s never easy here,” she says. Three-quarters of the world’s severe droughts over the past 10 years have occurred in Africa, leading to crop failure, hunger, and poverty. “If there was a type of maize that could tolerate drought, it would be very good for me and my family,” says Grace.
Identifying ways to mitigate drought risk is fundamental to realizing food security in the region and plant scientist Dr. Michael Otim is leading the way as part of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. “We have identified the genes that give drought tolerance. We are now developing maize varieties with this gene expression to ensure decent yields even when the rains don’t come,” he says.