The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project is a public/private partnership, initiated in 2008, dedicated to improving lives through the development of products that help smallholder farmers mitigate drought risk and manage insect pressure.
Led by the Kenya-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffett foundations, WEMA key partners include the National Agricultural Research Institutes in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT ) and Monsanto.
Since its inception, the WEMA partnership has successfully developed a robust pipeline of new drought-tolerant hybrids that will be available to local seed companies royalty-free over the next five to six years. In 2011, the African Agriculture Technology Foundation entered two conventional maize hybrids into National Performance Trials in Kenya. The first WEMA products are expected to be available to farmers in early 2014.
Like drought, insects are a major challenge for maize farmers in Africa, who often have little to no resources to effectively manage them. During drought, tolerant maize hybrids are particularly susceptible to pests that are likely to feed on greener, healthier plants in the fields. In 2011, the Executive Advisory Board of the WEMA project requested access to insect protection technology to complement the efforts to develop drought-tolerant maize hybrids for smallholder farmers in Africa.
Monsanto agreed to provide the technology royalty-free to the WEMA project for Sub-Saharan Africa, except in the Republic of South Africa where smallholder farmers already have access.
Maize hybrids developed in the WEMA project will help produce more reliable harvests and better grain quality. Monsanto estimates this effort could result in new white corn hybrids that may provide 20 to 35 percent more yield during moderate drought— enough to help keep hunger at bay for many in the region.
This effort is only part of what is needed to help these farmers boost their yields and incomes. Farmers also require good soil health, improved training and information, and access to markets.
WEMA represents a great example of people from different institutions and backgrounds partnering together to achieve a common vision. For more information about the partnership, please visit www.aatf-africa.org.
This article is excerpted from Monsanto’s 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report. To read the full report, please visit Monsanto.com.