Crop Biotech Update

AATF Receives Multi-million Grant for Bt Maize Commercialization in Africa

June 20, 2018

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) received a US$24.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the commercialization of insect resistant and drought tolerant maize in Sub-Saharan Africa. This complements USAID's ongoing $5 million commitment to the project.

The new maize hybrids (branded as TELA® maize) have been enhanced through biotechnology to improve their drought tolerance and ability to resist attacks by insects. The seeds have been tested in field trials in Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Uganda, and shown increased drought tolerance, excellent protection against stem borers, and partial but significant protection against the newest menace, Fall Armyworm. The TELA® hybrids are yielding on average 30% more than conventional hybrids.  When insect attacks are intense, the new hybrids yield 50% more. 

Approximately 15% of the maize harvest in East Africa is lost to stem borer each year.  The Fall Armyworm threatens to destroy up to 25% more of the harvest. Drought is becoming more frequent because of climate change. The new maize hybrids offer significant protection from these threats and can help protect the harvest and the livelihoods of African farmers.

"This is indeed great news for AATF, smallholder farmers and our partners. We are pleased that the Gates Foundation and USAID value the role of biotechnology in addressing the effects of climate change across the continent. With the continued support of various country governments, we believe, we shall offer dependable solutions within five years," said Dr. Denis Kyetere, Executive Director of AATF.

Read the press release from AATF.