Biotech Updates

Drought-tolerant Maize for Small-Scale African Farmers

March 28, 2008

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AAFT) announced a private-public partnership to develop drought-tolerant maize for Africa. Known as Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), the project was formed in response to call by farmers, scientists and government officials to address the devastating effects of drought on small-scale African maize growers. WEMA will involve collaboration between CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), Monsanto Company, and the national agricultural research systems in participating countries (Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda).

CIMMYT will provide drought-tolerant high-yielding maize varieties that are suitable for African conditions. These varieties were obtained through conventional breeding. Monsanto for its part will provide proprietary germplasms and breeding tools and expertise. It will also provide drought-tolerance transgenes (developed together with BASF) without royalty. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded an independent program at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health in University of Toronto to assess and monitor social, cultural, ethical and commercial issues related to the project.

The first conventional WEMA varieties are expected to be available by 2014. Transgenic drought-tolerant varieties will be available in about ten years.

For more details, read the press release at