Water-Efficient Maize Developed for East Africa

Water-Efficient Maize Developed for East Africa

September 1, 2014

Maize is a staple food in Sub-Saharan Africa and supports the livelihoods of about 300 million people. However, since maize production is almost completely rain-fed in this region, droughts can have a devastating impact on crop productivity and quality.

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project was established in order to address to help farmers grow maize under extreme weather conditions. WEMA is a public-private partnership led by the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) in conjunction with the plant science industry, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and five national agricultural research centers in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. Together these groups are researching ways to double maize yields through conventional breeding, marker-assisted breeding, and biotechnology, and so far the results have been promising.

Initial plantings of WEMA’s conventionally bred hybrid WE 1101 DroughtTEGO seed in Kenya resulted in substantially higher maize production compared with other local seed varieties.  Among 39 planting sites initially surveyed, the improved seed resulted in an average harvest of 4.5 tons per hectare – more than double the national average of 1.8 tons per hectare.

To date, a total of 25 DroughtTEGO hybrids have been approved for commercialization and are being grown in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, while a further 30 new hybrids have been entered into the final phase of variety registration in all five participating WEMA countries for potential release by 2015.