Maize Farmers in Uganda to Benefit from Four New Varieties Tolerant to Moderate Drought Stress

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Contact: Nancy Muchiri (n.muchiri@aatf-africa.org: +254 20 4223700/254 735 992 206)

ENTEBBE, Uganda, May 22, 2014 – Farmers in Uganda now have higher chances of increasing maize yield even in the light of predicted drought conditions due to climate change, after the release of four new conventional drought-tolerant maize hybrids.

The Ministry of Agriculture through its National Variety Release Committee has approved the release of the hybrids WE2101, WE2103, WE2104 and WE2106. This is in addition to two hybrids WE2114 and WE2115 released last year.  The hybrids will be sold under the trade name DroughtTEGO™ and once commercialized; farmers can expect a yield increase of between 20-35 per cent compared with commercial hybrids released in 2008.

The hybrids are developed by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, a public-private partnership dedicated to delivering drought-tolerant and insect-pest protected seed to smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) coordinates the project.

Last year, Kenya commercialized one of the DroughtTEGO hybrids, the WE1101 and farmers who planted it harvested substantial yields in January 2014. Among 39 sites in Western Kenya initially surveyed by AATF, DroughtTEGO resulted in an average harvest of 4.5 tons per hectare, more than double the national average of 1.8 tons per hectare in Kenya.

“After a six-year development process, we are very encouraged by the results of the first DroughtTEGO harvest,” said Denis Kyetere, executive director of AATF.  “The WEMA partnership is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when public and private organizations work together for a common good, providing powerful new tools to help farmers overcome climate change challenges and increase food production.”

These results demonstrate the power of advanced breeding tools to help the farmers of Sub-Saharan Africa, an area that is prone to drought and facing increased crop volatility due to climate change.  More than 90 percent of smallholder farmers in Africa depend solely on rainfall to maintain their crops.

More than five seed companies in Uganda have applied for sub-licenses to increase the production of the seed so as to enhance the availability for purchase by farmers in the next seasons.

“I planted the ‘TEGO’ seed last season and they (other farmers) always ask where did you get this seed. I need this seed. I want to plant it,” said Bertha Otor, one of the farmers in Western Kenya who planted the WE1101 TEGO during the short rains in October to December 2013.

“We are seeking the best ways to obtain greater seed production, distribution and use, so WEMA is working with private seed companies to deliver at least 10,000 metric tonnes of certified seeds produced from at least 25 conventional drought tolerant hybrids within the next four years,” says Dr Sylvester Oikeh, the WEMA Project Manager.

To date, a total of 25 DroughtTEGO hybrids have been approved for commercialization in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. More than 30 new hybrids have been entered into the final phase of variety registration in the five participating WEMA countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa) for potential release by 2015.

About WEMA (http://wema.aatf-africa.org/)

Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) is a public/private partnership led by the Kenyan-based African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), and involving Monsanto, CIMMYT, and five National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. The objective of the project is to improve food security and rural livelihood among smallholder maize farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa by developing new drought-tolerant and insect pest-protected maize hybrids. WEMA provides the technology royalty-free to all African seed companies for deployment to smallholder farmers.  WEMA helps build technical breeding and biotechnology capacity as well as seed systems in Africa. After six years of development, smallholder farmers in Kenya saw promising results from the first WEMA hybrid (WE1101, which is an improved new conventional white maize hybrid being sold under the brand name DroughtTEGO™) harvested in early 2014. WEMA is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and USAID.

About AATF (http://www.aatf-africa.org)

The African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) is a not-for-profit organisation establihed to access, develop, adapt and deliver appropriate agricultural technologies for sustainable use by smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa through innovative partnerships and effective stewardship along the entire value chain. AATF provides expertise and know-how that facilitates the identification, access, development, delivery and utilisation of appropriate agricultural technologies. AATF works towards food security and poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa, and its structure and operations draw upon the best practices and resources of both the public and private sectors. AATF is a registered charity under the laws of England and Wales and has been given a tax-exempt status in the USA. It is incorporated in Kenya and in the UK and has been granted host country status by the Government of Kenya where it is headquartered and is registered as a charity in Nigeria.

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