Kenyan maize farmers set to benefit from development of improved varieties


Anne Wambui has been growing maize in her farm located in the upper eastern Kenyan county of Embu for three decades to cater for domestic consumption and sale in the nearby market.

During this period, she has relied on buying varieties from seed stockists that are either recommended by the agricultural extension officials or not necessarily varieties that she prefers to plant.

“I and most of us in this region have simply been going to the seed stockists and purchasing maize seeds believing that they will perform and give us returns but unfortunately, this has not been the case,” Wambui told Xinhua during a recent field day visit.

She said that her harvest has continued to reduce with time as she harvests less maize and spend most of the time removing weeds from the farm.

However, scientists at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) emphasized that farmers should be availed varieties that meet their varied needs.

Paswell Marenya, socio-economist at CIMMYT said that farmers are now capable of acquiring seed varieties that they require in line with their preferences.

“We have embarked on developing early, medium and long maturing seed varieties to suit the demand of farmers,” Marenya said.

He said that CIMMYT has developed multiple varieties each having a sub set of desirable qualities that appeal to farmers.

“We have conducted research in 13 countries, Kenya included to come up with drought tolerant maize variety for the continent.” said Marenya.

He said that besides being drought tolerant, the varieties are also resistant to diseases, pests and striga weed.

Marenya noted that it is now upon farmers to produce and ensure that their storage facilities are up to date to limit post-harvest losses.

“Food insecurity in Kenya and most parts of Africa has been a normal occurrence because farmers use to plant wrong maize seeds from their region,” said Yoseph Beyene, senior maize breeder at CIMMYT.

Beyene said that climate change has compelled scientists to breed seeds that are drought tolerant, high yielding and disease resistant to save farmers from making losses and also help improve food security.

“We are now developing seeds suitable for eastern, central and western Kenya respectively to answer to the farmers’ needs,” said Beyene.

He said that the seed varieties are almost ready for commercialization for farmers to start planting them once the regulatory authorities approve them for planting.

Beyene disclosed that scientists have conducted trials for the seeds in several regions in eastern and southern Africa countries.

“We are developing maize seeds using double haploid technology that is faster and reduces time frame in breeding system,” Boddupalli Prasanna, director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program said.

Prasanna said that scientists are using a combination of breeds to help farmers make a difference from their produce. Enditem

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