By Nawa Mutumweno
Zambia is among 12 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa expected to benefit from the newly launched Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project that will develop improved maize varieties with resistance and tolerance to drought and diseases affecting maize production.
The varieties have been launched to help the region boost food security.
The STMA project introduced by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), will help increase maize productivity by about 30 to 50 percent and provide 5.5 million smallholder farmers with improved maize varieties.
According to the ProAgri latest report, other beneficiary countries are Benin, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
STMA project leader, Tsedeke Abate, said the four-year project will improve maize production for over five million smallholder farmer households by the end of 2019 in the targeted beneficiary countries.
‘‘STMA will use modern breeding technologies that will confer the desired resistance to pest and diseases, and tolerant climate stresses like drought and heat to benefit farmers within their socio-economic capabilities, that often dictate their access to important farm inputs such as fertilizer and improved seed,’’ he said.
The project will apply conventional breeding techniques to develop maize varieties and hybrids capable of resisting environmental shocks, including drought, low soil fertility, heat, pests and disease.
‘’The project also seeks to increase commercialisation of improved multiple stress-tolerant maize varities with gender-preferred traits,’’ he elaborated.
STMA will also link up national and regional initiatives to develop strategies that bridge the yield gap and dramatically increase maize production at smallholder farm level.
Continued collaboration with partners will enhance sustainable maize research and development systems in target countries through sustained variety release deployment and adoption which has been insufficient in many sub-Saharan countries, Mr. Abate added.
STMA is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).