News / Science & Technology

New Corn Varieties Could Combat Famine During Drought

Michael Onyiego

Increasingly frequent droughts across Africa threaten to destroy the livelihoods of millions across the continent, but a new study has found the adoption of drought resistant corn could save African farmers and earn them nearly $1 billion in the coming years.

Hundreds of millions of Africans rely on corn production for income, as well as basic sustenance in their daily lives.  But in recent decades, drought has wreaked havoc on populations across the continent, killing many and forcing others to rely on handouts to survive.

From 2007 through 2009 unusually low rainfall across East Africa devastated rural communities and forced the Kenya government to adopt measures to combat food shortages and rising prices.

But a new study conducted by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center has found new breeds of corn could help farmers fight the effects of drought and provide food throughout periods of low rainfall.  The study, conducted in cooperation with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found widespread adoption of so-called "drought-tolerant" corn could result in collective economic benefits of around $900 million for African farmers by 2016.

According to the study, the new breeds could also save consumers more than $500 million in drought related price increases during the same period.

According to one of the report's authors, Wilfred Mwangi, the introduction of drought-tolerant corn will be critical for African farmers trying to weather the effects of global climate change.

"The issue of climate change is a reality," said Mwangi.  "Drought occurs very, very often in sub-Saharan Africa.  It is even predicted that by 2050 we might even need entirely different varieties of maize if we are going to mitigate against drought.  This whole question of climate change and drought out of that climate change is the major constraint to maize production in Africa.  This is an important strategy that famers can use to adapt against climate change."

According to Mwangi, who is also the associate director of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center's Global Maize Program, many of Africa's farmers are small-scale subsistence producers with little or no access to irrigation systems, which leaves them especially vulnerable to drought conditions.

He told VOA the introduction of new corn varieties could boost yields by as much as 30 percent and protect against future shortages.

East Africa has managed to recover from two consecutive years of drought with help from unusually high rains in late 2009 and early 2010.  The rains were caused by an "El Nino event" and produced extremely high crop yields across the region.   

But early signs of a "La Nina" event have many expert predicting reduced rainfall in the coming months.  According to a brief released in August by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, the developing "La Nina" could inhibit the rainy season, which typically lasts from October through December.  If the rains fail, another devastating, region-wide drought can be expected as early as February.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs