Biotech Updates

Orange Maize Improves Yields and Nutrition for Families in Zambia

May 29, 2013

A Feed the Future-supported program implemented by HarvestPlus has been demonstrating the benefits of orange maize ever since three new varieties that provide higher levels of vitamin A were released in 2012 by the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute. The promising varieties were bred in Mexico at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) under the HarvestPlus program and then extensively tested in Zambia. In addition to providing more vitamin A than white maize, the new varieties are also high-yielding, disease resistant, and drought tolerant, thereby reducing farmers' vulnerability to threats like reduced rainfall.

Vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to loss of vision, impaired immune function, and other ailments, is a public health threat in Zambia that affects more than 50 percent of children under five years of age. While vitamin A is available from a variety of foods, such as fruit, green leafy vegetables, and animal products, these are often too expensive or simply unavailable in Zambia's rural areas.

According to Emerson Banji, one of the more than 1,000 "lead" farmers who are testing the new varieties of orange maize this season, the variety has surpassed expectations. "What I have now proved is that it can give someone a better harvest…and I will continue growing this kind of maize because it can even help me and my family have a better life. I would prefer to grow orange maize than white maize." He says.

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