CGNET Customer Highlight: AATF’s Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA)
Africa has historically had drought problems which can make farming very risky for smallholder farmers, who rely on rain as their crop watering source. Maize (also known as corn in some English-speaking countries) is Africa’s most widely grown staple crop, with more than 300 million Africans who depend on it as their food source. Maize can be dramatically affected by drought and when it’s serious enough it can lead to crop failure, hunger and poverty for the people of the continent. Smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa have very little to no resources to effectively manage drought and other serious issues that arise like climate change and stem boring insects. These stem boring insects feed on the surviving maize and hinder the crops ability to use limited water and nutrients. When drought, insects and the climate change combine, smallholder farmers can experience a devastating, complete maize crop loss.
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization realize that crop improvement programs can help combat these serious drought, insect and climate issues with biotechnology. Hard work and improvement in biotechnology have helped these crop improvement programs to stabilize yields and encourage smallholder farmers to adopt best crop management practices. These taught crop management practices are really fundamental in realizing food security and improved living for the people of Africa.
We would like to highlight African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) for coordinating a public-private partnership called Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA). The goal of WEMA, is to develop drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize, using conventional breeding, marker assisted breeding, and biotechnology. Not only is the goal for WEMA to increase drought-tolerance but the organization is also aiming to make these different drought-tolerant maize seeds available royalty-free to smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The maize varieties are distributed to African seed companies which are then distributed to the smallholder farmers. The benefits and safety of these different maize varieties will be assessed by national authorities according to the regulatory requirements in the partnering countries: Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.