I recently sat down with Dr. Tsedeke Abate, leader of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa
(DTMA) initiative, which is jointly administered by CIMMYT and IITA. He caught me up to speed on DTMA's work, which recently wrapped up after 10 years’ worth of research on increasing maize productivity and resilience during times of drought in 13 African countries. The initiative itself had three main objectives, detailed below.
1. Product development and testing
Over the course of the initiative, more than 200 unique and improved drought-tolerant maize varieties have been bred, leading to comparable or higher maize yields under normal conditions and increased maize yields during drought.
2. Product promotion and delivery
CIMMYT and IITA have partnered with country-level agricultural education and training (AET) systems
, researchers, seed companies, government ministries, community-based organizations and more in order to increase institutional capacity and to ensure this work will continue now that the initiative has been completed.
3. Enhancing impacts
For the new varieties to be picked up and disseminated through formal seed networks, they need to be commercialized by seed companies. Again, DTMA helped seed companies to commercialize by building their capacity and helping them produce the new varieties while also addressing other ways they’re deficient. As a result of the DTMA initiative, more than 100 companies have worked with DTMA, and each year they are increasing the varieties of seeds in each country. More than 54,000 tons of improved seed were produced and distributed across the 13 countries in 2014 alone.
The initiative recently released a series of infographics
highlighting the different improved maize varieties released under DTMA in each of the countries that DTMA worked, along with other valuable information for each variety including:
- Maturity range
- Owner (seed company/distributor)
- Suitable agro-ecologies for each variety
- Yield range
The infographic for Zambia's maize varieties. Credit: DTMA/CIMMYT.
Each infographic also outlines country-level priorities moving forward to ensure that varieties continue to be developed and disseminated as well as remaining challenges to overcome, like farmer adoption. In many countries, barriers to adoption
include constraints like high seed price and inadequate or inaccessible information for farmers. Check out the graphic below for the range of constraints identified in 10 of the countries, which vary widely from country to country. This supports the fact that we need tailored solutions for each unique country context.
Sourced from DT Maize Vol. 4 No. 4, December 2015. Credit: DTMA/CIMMYT.
A future project
will build upon the work that DTMA has accomplished, but will broaden the research objectives to include variety development to better suit other types of stress, not just drought. These other stressors and emerging challenges might include pests, disease and heat. The next project will also address variety development for desirable traits like improved nutritional content.