Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project leader, Murenga Mwimali, told an agricultural forum in Nairobi that Kenya loses about 13 percent of its maize production to the stem borer pest.
Mwimali said that the losses were equivalent to 400,000 metric tons of maize production annually.
“Farmers currently use cultural, chemical, biological methods to control the pest from damaging maize crop with varying degrees of success,” Mwimali said.
“Once Kenyan farmers adopt the GM maize which is insect resistant, it will save the country close to 90 million dollars annually,” Mwimali said.
The WEMA project is a public-private partnership one being conducted by several organizations including the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation.
The project began in 2008 and aims to develop a drought and insect resistant maize variety. A team of researchers has successfully conducted confined field trials on the biotech maize.
“Preliminary results show that the maize will have a 40 percent yield advantage and a 60 percent leaf damage reduction,” Mwimali said.
The researchers received approval from the National Biosafety Authority in April to carry out GM maize testing under the National Performance Trials (NPT).
“Among the approval conditions was for the project to generate an Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Social Impact Assessment report before commencing the NPTs,” Mwimali said.
“We are currently awaiting approval from the National Environmental Management Agency license before we commence the trials,” he added.
Mwimali said that the transgenic maize should be commercially available to farmers in 2019. Enditem