News / Africa

    New Corn Variety Boosts Food Security Across Africa

    A farmer gathers arid corn crops on his farm in Kwale, Kenya (File Photo).
    A farmer gathers arid corn crops on his farm in Kwale, Kenya (File Photo).

    In times of drought, parched lands yield few, if any, crops, increasing hunger among communities. As one way of boosting food security during these difficult times, scientists in Kenya and across Africa are coming up with maize varieties that are able to produce corn with a minimal water supply.

    KDV4

    Tucked away in the corner of farmer Philip Ngolania Makau’s living room sits a floor-to-ceiling silo filled with corn. He grabs a basin, opens the tap, and out pours a steady stream of kernels ready to be boiled for the evening meal.

    What’s unusual about this scene is that, while his neighbors are struggling to put food on the table, Makau’s family has plenty of corn to spare. This is during a drought near the town of Machakos in eastern Kenya where Makau has his three-quarter-acre farm.

    The secret of his success? KDV4.

    Makau is in town, now, at the retail shop of the Dryland Seed Company. He is purchasing several bags of KDV4, one of more than 20 corn varieties in Kenya that are drought-tolerant. This is Makau’s second season of planting this variety of corn. He calls his first season a “miracle.”

    “In that three-quarter acre [farm], I was getting less than a bag [of corn]," said Makau. "But now, after we got the Dry[land] Seed Company seeds, there has been great change. I am getting five bags in that small area.”

    Dryland Seed Company

    At the Dryland Seed Company’s warehouse on the edge of town, co-director Edna Ngila is counting sacks of KDV4 seeds and two other varieties of drought-tolerant corn. Over the past year, the company has produced 100 tons of drought-tolerant seeds to sell to farmers.

    “They appreciate our seed. They are saying they are not losing a season anymore. Before, they were losing a season," said Ngila. "We only have two seasons in a year to grow our food. If you missed last season, for example, it means you don’t have food until the next season - that will take them about eight or nine months to grow another food.”

    The company contracts out about 100 farmers to help the company expand its seed supply. Ngila explains.

    “Our aim is to help the farmers eradicate poverty, be part of our business," said Ngila. "So we give them seed to grow for us so we buy from them.”

    Ngila and her company works closely with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, or KARI. Dryland Seed Company and its customers such as farmer Makau are the end users of corn that has been developed over many years in research stations across the country.

    Drought-tolerant corn

    Young Kenyan boys harvest maize in Bomet, Kenya (File Photo).
    Young Kenyan boys harvest maize in Bomet, Kenya (File Photo).

    Under various conditions, researchers creating drought-tolerant corn examine specific traits of the plant such as the depth of the root system, pollination process, and the rolling of leaves.

    “We plant all the different types of varieties - sometimes going up to hundreds - into a field like this," said Dr. James Gethi, the national coordinator of KARI’s maize program. "After reaching a stage just before they flower, you withdraw the water. Once you withdraw the water, the plants grow, simulating an environment where the rain has stopped. At the end of the season, you check at all the different varieties that you have, and check the ones that have done the best.”

    He says plants are then tested under natural drought conditions. From there, a “breeder seed” is developed and regulated by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service. The breeder seed is passed on to partners such as Dryland Seed Company, who then develops certified seed that can be sold or distributed to farmers.

    Taste

    Throughout the process, researchers work closely with farmers to create the ideal crop.

    Lloyd Le Page, the chief executive officer of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Consortium, a global network of scientists and researchers that works with groups such as KARI, explains that farmers are looking for a range of characteristics in the plant that go beyond the ability to withstand dryness and heat.

    “Maize is such an important staple crop, particularly in East Africa and Southern Africa, that taste is a large factor for them," said Le Page. "It’s no good producing a drought-tolerant crop if it doesn’t taste in the way that they’re looking for.”

    The development of drought-tolerant corn is seen as a viable solution to the problem of reduced yields during drought, resulting in food insecurity and famine in severe cases.

    A study released last year by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre predicts that widespread adaption of drought-tolerant varieties of maize could boost harvests in 13 African countries by 10 to 34 percent and generate up to $1.5 billion in benefits for producers and consumers.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora