Biotech Updates

Drought Tolerant Maize Boosts Farmers' Harvests in Tanzania

May 18, 2012

In Tanzania, farmers who used to grow millet, sorghum and other legumes are now part of an international research project called Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA). The farmers are using five maize varieties that are being tested in WEMA's efforts to increase food production and help farmers face the challenges of climate change.

Barnabas Kiula, WEMA's lead researcher in Tanzania, said that Situka, one of the maize varieties being introduced, can be grown in dry conditions and still be ready for harvest in only 75 days, when most varieties need at least 90 days to mature. According to him, the pressing need for food security in the region led to the decision to experiment which introduced maize to areas which have not traditionally grown the crop. "People are dying of hunger in this area. They live by food handouts every single year. We hope that drought tolerant maize could reverse this situation," he said.

Hassan Mshinda, director-general of the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, which is coordinating WEMA activities in the country, said that affordable, drought resistant varieties of staple crops will be important for dealing not only with climate change but also with general poor growing conditions and low yields in some African countries.

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