Nairobi — Foreign scientists are collaborating with their counterparts at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute KARI to develop new maize varieties resistant to emerging diseases and climate change.
The research to develop maize varieties for ecological zone in Kenya is being undertaken in Western Kenya by KARI. Principal scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) Dr Stephen Mugo said similar research is being conducted in Uganda Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia and South Africa and other sub Saharan countries. "In bid to ensure sustained maize production in Africa researchers are toiling to come up new maize varieties able to counter the effects of climate change and emerging diseases," Mugo said in Kakamega on Monday. Mugo and Dr Mulugetta Mekeria, in charge of sustainable and international maize legume cropping systems for food security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA) in Harare led a team of scientists to evaluate and monitor maize varieties developed at the Kakamega center.
If the trials are achieved, Mugo said the new maize varieties will give farmers seven tons harvest from an acre. Currently farmers harvest two tons per acre. The official said the varieties being developed would be availed to the market in the next three years. "We anticipate to avail the varieties being developed in the market by 2015 and farmers will have the opportunity to realize good yields," said Mugo. "The researchers are determined to develop a better maize seed varieties that would adapt climate change and resistant to various diseases," he added. Speaking during the visit, Mugetta noted that sub-Saharan Africa is in the dire need of food and challenged African countries to commit 10 percent of the national budget to agriculture. The scientist said it is shame for Africa to continue begging for food from other continents and when it has the capacity and resources to produce adequate food. "Africa has the resources and necessary machinery to produce sufficient food but the region is begging for food from time to time. It is a bit shameful," he observed.
The researchers pledged to strive hard to ensure the continent achieve some of the economic goals through agriculture. Director at KARI Kakamega Center Dr Francis Muyekho said the trails were tedious and labor intensive to come up with varieties that can survive in low moisture and disease prone areas of the country.The official said the center is organizing a field day in August for local farmers to learn from recent research in bid to improve food production.
The maize seed project funded by CIMMYT, water efficient maize for Africa (WEMA), Bill and Melinda gates foundation and the Australian government. The Australian government is promoting agriculture conservation methods in Kenya to end use of tractors and ploughs to prepare land and instead use environmentally friendly non-tillage methods to kill weeds and plant crops. The new farming technology is being tried at Kanduyi and Bumula constituencies in Bungoma and Siaya County.
With funding from World Bank, World Food Organization (FAO), and USA McKnight foundation, Kakamega KARI center has in the past years conducted research and develop high yielding disease resistant seed variety for maize, finger millet, palm oil, beans and endangered crops. The center with other organizations and the ministry of agriculture through intensive research developed a cassava variety resistant to a mosaic viral disease that has in years endangered the production of the crop. A Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has provided funds to the center to train farmers in Western Kenya on methods to reduce acid the soil to boost food production.