Monday, May 14, 2012

Water-efficient maize boosts harvests for drought-hit Tanzanian farmers

Kizito Makoye in AlertNet: Balisidya Jacob has been farming for many years, but it’s the novelty and size of his new crop of maize that is making him smile. The 56-year-old, who is sole breadwinner for an extended family of 17 children, is happy at the prospect of being able to feed them all, thanks to an experiment with drought-resistant seed.

Although maize is a staple crop in Tanzania, farmers in Makutupora, a village 27 km (17 miles) north of the capital, Dodoma, are more used to growing millet, sorghum and legumes. Tanzania’s great central plateau, which sprawls across Dodoma, Singida and parts of Tabora regions, has suffered from drought for years, and maize has not been widely cultivated here because it cannot withstand the arid conditions.

But as part of an international research project dubbed Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), Jacob and his neighbours are now using five varieties of maize seed that are being tested in an effort increase food production and help farmers adapt to the effects of climate change. “I was not sure these seeds would be any good, but it’s amazing - they require little water and they grow fast,” said Jacob.

WEMA’s lead researcher in Tanzania, Barnabas Kiula, said that one of the maize varieties being introduced, situka, can be grown in arid conditions and could be ready for harvest in just 75 days. Most maize varieties require at least 90 days to mature....

Shot of some maize by Joeriee, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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