Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Malawians rethink maize planting as climate dries

Karen Sanje in AlertNet: Less than three years after Ezelina Nyirongo reluctantly abandoned cultivation of her favourite local maize varieties, the 48-year-old from Rumphi in northern Malawi is thinking of going back to them. Back in 2010, Nyirongo was advised by agricultural extension officers working in her area, near the city of Mzuzu, to switch from late-maturing local maize to new hybrid varieties.

“The hybrid maize varieties they recommended we start growing have been maturing a little earlier than the local varieties, at least before the rains finished,” said Nyirongo. “And the harvest has also been a little better than when I was growing the local maize varieties.”

But now, officials from the ministry of agriculture and food security and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are encouraging farmers to plant indigenous maize again, alongside the hybrid varieties.

“This is for adaptation to the effects of climate change, both by way of growing the local varieties themselves, which are more resilient to harsh climatic conditions, and production of early-maturing hybrid varieties,” Malawi’s deputy minister of agriculture and food security, Ulemu Chilapondwa, told AlertNet...

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