NAIROBI, KENYA (26 AUGUST 2010)—As climate change intensifies drought conditions in Africa and sparks fears of a new cycle of crippling food shortages, a study released today finds widespread adoption of recently developed drought-tolerant varieties of maize could boost harvests in 13 African countries by 10 to 34 percent and generate up to US$1.5 billion in benefits for producers and consumers.
We need to move deliberately, but with urgency, to get these new varieties from the breeders to the farmers, because their potential to avert crises is considerable, said Roberto La Rovere, a socio-economist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (known by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT) and lead author of the study, which was produced in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Our analysis shows that with high rates of adoption, more than four million producers and consumers would see their poverty level drop significantly by 2016, he added.
The study was conducted as part of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa Initiative (DTMA) implemented by CIMMYT and IITA with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. CIMMYT and IITA have worked with national agriculture research centers in Africa to develop over 50 new maize varieties that in drought conditions can produce yields that are 20 to 50 percent higher than existing varieties.
The CIMMYT-IITA analysis of the benefits of conventional drought-tolerant maize for Africa, or DTMA, examined the potential impact in Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The researchers found that under conservative yield improvements, the new varieties would provide farmers and consumers with food and income worth US$537 million, while under more optimistic yield improvements, their value would increase to US$876 million. Moreover, the researchers estimate that if drought-tolerant maize completely replaced existing varieties in the countries studied, the benefits could reach US$1.5 billion.