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New varieties’ impacts, including aiding food security

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Flickr/CIMMYT/Anne Wangalachi

Smallholders gaining from nitrogen-efficient maize

 Sam Otieno

Speed read

  • Smallholders face challenges such as poor soils and high cost of fertilisers
  • New improved varieties can raise yields by 30 per cent even in poor soils
  • Smallholders are seeing the varieties’ impacts, including aiding food security

Nancy Shibona, a small-scale maize farmer from Kakamega County, Kenya, is a widow and her family’s bread winner.

Shobona grows a nitrogen-use-efficient (NUE) type of maize. The variety was developed by the Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS) project, an alliance led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CYMMIT).

She tells SciDev.Net that she is happy with the variety because it is improving her life economically and socially.

“I will sell some to earn money so that I can pay my children’s school fees and save some for my children’s [consumption],” she says.

Shibona is one of many small-scale farmers in Kenya who achieved higher maize yields in September this year despite having poor soils, and hardly using fertilisers.

But despite Shibona and many other Kenyan smallholders gaining more from the maize variety, smallholder farming in Sub-Saharan Africa has many challenges.

Challenges African smallholders face

Biswanath Das, a maize breeder at CIMMYT, tells SciDev.Net that after climate-related impacts such as drought, the other major challenge affecting smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is low-fertility soils, including those with poor nitrogen-supplying capacity.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.