Biotech Updates

Kenya: Pigeon Peas, the New Maize?

August 7, 2009

Climate change has taken its toll in Kenya's eastern district of Mbeere South as farmers are confused as to the time of planting, which is always based on rainfall. It is good though if the rain comes, farmers can plant. In the past four years however, there has been insufficient rain that farmers have to devise ways to increase farm productivity in the midst of climate variability and high fertilizer cost. 

The International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has initiated a program in Mbeere to test four new drought tolerant pigeon pea varieties. The crop is hardy and can grow in a range of environments and cropping systems. "Farmers select the preferred varieties and sizes," said Richard Jones, ICRISAT Eastern and Southern Africa assistant director. The selection is based on maturity times, plant height, stem thickness, amount of leaves, susceptibility to disease, cooking times and soil types. Thirty farmers' groups have been selected to pilot the project. 

Farmers in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania have planted the drought tolerant pigeon pea in large scale in place of corn, their staple. This assures them of plentiful yield for their own consumption as well as to trade for corn.

For  more details, see the press release at: