Study Evaluates Use Of Drought-Tolerant Maize In Africa

Reuters reports on a study (.pdf) examining the use of drought-tolerant maize in 13 African countries, which was published on Thursday by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) with input from several other food research institutes (Cocks, 8/26).

The study found that drought-tolerant maize “can bring sub-Saharan Africa’s farmers cumulative economic benefits of nearly USD 0.9 billion during 2007-16,” according to CIMMYT press release. “This is assuming likely rates of adoption of drought-tolerant varieties,” said the study’s lead author Roberto La Rovere, an impacts specialist at CIMMYT. The drought-tolerant varieties “provide a yield advantage of 10% to 34% over normal improved varieties, depending on the site and seasonal conditions,” La Rovere said.

The drought-tolerant maize was also found to provide higher and more stable yields, according to Wilfred Mwangi, associate director of CIMMYT’s global maize program and a co-author of the study. “Small-scale agriculture in Africa is predominantly rainfed; few farmers have access to irrigation. Drought tolerant maize varieties are more dependable under varying rainfall conditions. This means that farmers will suffer less pronounced fluctuations in season-to-season yields, reducing their risk,” Mwangi said.

Based on their calculations, La Rovere said the use of drought-tolerant maize has the potential to “help more than 4 million people to escape poverty and many millions more to improve their livelihoods.” The most significant economic benefits would occur in Nigeria, Kenya, and Malawi, La Rovere said. “This is a function of the amounts of maize sown in those countries, the importance of maize in local diets and livelihoods, and historical levels of adoption of improved maize there,” he said.

The study was conducted in Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe (undated release).