Improving yields, resistance to pests and diseases, or tolerance to other stresses, through conventional breeding or biotechnology. Plus on-farm practices for improved production.
With higher levels of protein than normal maize, quality protein maize (QPM) is a valuable crop for resource-poor families who depend on maize as their staple food. In Gulu district, Uganda, an innovation platform for technology adoption (IPTA) has been set up to introduce and promote the crop. Grace Amito, one member of the platform, has been encouraging farmers to adopt it through her radio programmes. Charles Komakech, focal person of the IPTA, explains how farmers can maintain the quality of the crop by avoiding cross pollination, and commercial farmer Oola Lawrence explains the benefits of QPM compared to normal maize.
published: October 2013
Sorghum has been regarded as a ‘poor man’s crop’ in much of Africa. In southern Zambia, however, that situation is changing. Here, farmers, crop breeders, extension officers and people working in the food and feed industries have formed an ‘innovation platform’ – working together to support commercial sorghum production. New, high yielding and drought tolerant varieties of sorghum are generating good profits for farmers, many of whom are now supplying the Zambian brewing industry. And with sorghum having strong health benefits, its future contribution to Zambia’s economy – and to the livelihoods of small-scale farmers – looks assured. Friday Phiri reports from Lusitu, southern Zambia, on the changing face of sorghum production.
published: October 2013
In Busia County, western Kenya, orange fleshed sweet potato, rich in vitamin A, is being grown by an increasing number of farmers for domestic consumption and for sale. Some are also growing and selling sweet potato vines to farmers locally and in other parts of the country, helping to spread the crop further. The development of the crop is being supported by a wide range of organisations, who have formed the Busia Innovation Platform in order to coordinate their efforts. In the first of a two-part series, Pius Sawa speaks to some of those involved in promoting the crop.
published: October 2013
Unexpected changes in the weather, including sudden dry spells, are a major problem for groundnut farmers in semi-arid parts of Uganda. The Serere-based National Semi Arid Resources Research Institute has supported farmers by developing drought resistant varieties of groundnut, some of which mature in less than 100 days. According to groundnut breeder Dr Moses Biruma, with good management, varieties such as Serenut 5 can yield up to 3.6 tons per hectare. The new varieties have now been adopted on a large scale, helping many groundnut farmers to maintain their production despite adverse weather conditions.
published: August 2013
In Kenya’s Central Rift Valley, sweet potato farmers have struggled to produce healthy, high yielding crops, with much of their harvest lost to plant viruses or damaged by weevils. In response, sweet potato breeders from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute have worked with farmers in the area to select and develop better varieties of sweet potato, which are tolerant of viruses, high yielding and contain high levels of nutrients and vitamin A. Breeder Laura Karanja explains the process, and how through planting the new varieties and attention to farming practices such as weed control, farmers can expect to double their yields. She also points out the importance of breeding crops specific to local areas, in order to match local conditions such as rainfall patterns, soil moisture and altitude.
published: February 2013
In Tanzania, cassava has traditionally been grown as a food crop, generally thriving in warm, lowland areas. But, learning from the experience of countries such as Nigeria and Mozambique, Tanzanian cassava breeder Dr Kiddo Mtunda is developing varieties of cassava with high starch content, for use by industry. Starch from cassava is highly valued for making glucose syrup as an ingredient for beer and other drinks. Starch is also used by textile manufacturers, by the pharmaceutical industry and others. Dr Mtunda explains to Chelu Matuzya about three high starch cassava varieties under development, which also have resistance to major cassava diseases. These represent a new source of income for farmers, in selling cassava to starch processors, as well as offering by-products including livestock feed.
published: February 2013
In Uganda, bean crops have been affected by a disease called anthracnose, which causes blistering on the pods. Initial attempts to introduce disease-resistant varieties failed, as many of the attributes of these new varieties, such as taste, colour and cooking time, were not popular with farmers. Recent breeding work, however, has involved farmers in the selection process so that they can choose varieties which are not only disease resistant but have many other attributes they want. To complement the work of seed companies in spreading these varieties, farmers have also been trained to produce bean seed, which some farmer groups are now doing as a valuable source of income.
published: January 2013
Beans are a popular food and cash crop in Cameroon but in recent years, yields from commonly planted varieties have been in decline because of disease, pest attack and poor soil fertility. In response, the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD) has released seven bean varieties which are more resistant to pests and diseases and able to adapt to different soils. The new varieties are now being multiplied by farmers, trained by IRAD, in order to meet demand both in Cameroon and more widely in the region. Senior researcher Laurent Nounamo explains more about the work to Martha Chindong.
published: November 2012
In Malawi, soya bean has a growing market as an ingredient in livestock feed. In Mchinji district, farmers who once grew tobacco are now turning to soya, with support from the Clinton Development Initiative and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. To maximise their harvests, the farmers are treating their seeds before planting with an inoculant. This boosts the capacity of the soya plant roots to absorb nitrogen from air pockets in the soil. The nitrogen acts as a source of fertiliser, both for the soya and for later crops, helping the farmers achieve good profits in the market. George Kalungwe speaks to farmers and their advisers about how the seed treatment works and the benefits it has brought.
published: October 2012
Cassava has been described as a survivor crop, capable of withstanding long periods of dry weather. In the context of climate change in Africa, this makes cassava a valuable insurance crop, a source of food and income when other crops fail. At the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), crop breeders are developing new varieties of cassava which are even more tolerant to long periods of drought. East African director for IITA, Dr Victor Manyong, explains to Wambi Michael about the importance of cassava in the context of climate change, and why new varieties of the crop are only likely to be adopted by farmers if they can find markets for their crop surpluses.
published: September 2012
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