Saturday, 31 January 2009

Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa

Maize is the staple food of more than 300 million Africans. The crop, however, is severely affected by frequent drought. Drought leads to crop failure, hunger, and poverty. Global climate change is expected to worsen the problem. Recently, a public-private partnership was formed to develop drought-tolerant maize varieties using conventional breeding, marker-assisted breeding, and biotechnology.

Known as Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), the project is led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in collaboration with CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), Monsanto Company, and agricultural research systems, farmer groups and seed companies in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed funding of US $42 million to the project. The first conventional WEMA varieties are expected to be available in six to seven years. Transgenic drought-tolerant varieties will be available in about ten years. Reference: AATF