Kenyans turn to drought-tolerant maize variety to fight poverty

Author:Evelyn Situma
Position:Communications Officer, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)
SUMMARY

Maize farming was becoming a source of major frustration for 61-year-old Jotham Apamo. Despite his best efforts, his small quarter-acre farm yielded just 10 kilograms of maize each harvest, and then only if he was lucky and there were no pests or drought.

 
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“There was hardly any gain for me. I was pushed into debt. I couldn’t feed my family or pay school fees for my children,” he recalls.

Mr. Apamo’s attempts to switch to higher-yielding maize varieties did little to improve the situation. After seven fruitless years he was on the point of giving up when he learned about a new hybrid seed called DroughtTEGO®.

“I got to know about DroughtTEGO® maize through a local nonprofit organization called Rural Outreach Programme (ROP). They offered to do a demonstration on my field in 2014,” he explains. Curious, Mr. Apamo willingly agreed to set aside a portion of his farm for the trial. Could these seeds change his fortunes?

At harvest time all his hopes came true. “I was truly amazed. I harvested 110 kilograms from the tiny demonstration plot of 0.025 acres,” he says with a wide grin. Inspired by these results, the following year he planted TEGO maize on half an acre. The outcome was equally encouraging.

“I have come to realize that DroughtTEGO® is a quality seed. It can withstand drought and strong wind,” says Mr. Apamo. Even when termites threatened to damage his second-season (short rainy season) crop in 2015, he still harvested nine bags of maize each weighing 90 kilograms from the half-acre of land – a total of 810 kilograms, just two bags less than his 2014 harvest. “I can now feed and educate my family,” he says.

About DroughtTEGO®

DroughtTEGO® is a drought-tolerant white maize variety developed and deployed by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project coordinated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). This climate-smart variety can produce a substantial grain yield even under moderate drought conditions.

Sylvester Oikeh, WEMA project manager, says that under moderate drought conditions, WEMA’s drought-tolerant maize can increase yields by 20 to 35 percent compared with varieties developed in 2008 when the project started.

WEMA has developed more than 80 drought-tolerant (climate-smart) maize varieties adapted to the prevailing weather conditions and diseases of different regions. In 2016, the WE2109 variety was launched in Tanzania, and WE3127 and WE3128 hybrids were released in South Africa.

DroughtTEGO® produces high yields even in tough conditions, with average yields of 4.5 tons per hectare compared to local varieties which yield around 1.8 tons per hectare. Little surprise, then, that DroughtTEGO® maize is becoming a popular choice among smallholder farmers in...

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