By Joyce Ojanji

To cushion African farmers against the impact of climate change on their productivity and enhance their livelihood, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has restated its commitment to deliver transgenic drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize varieties.

“Smallholder farmers face numerous challenges at the farm level, and one of the significant hardships they encounter is pest and disease infestations,” Dr. Canisius Kanangire, AATF Executive Director said at the 5th TELA Maize Project Annual Review and Planning meeting held in South Africa.

“The infestation of pests and diseases can lead to reduced yields, crop damage, and even complete crop loss, which can have severe economic consequences for smallholder farmers. The cost of controlling pests and diseases can also be prohibitive for many smallholder farmers, further exacerbating the problem.”

Additionally, he observed that frequent drought as a result of climate change, use of harmful pesticides, and low productivity due to degraded soil nutrients, are some of the persistent challenges facing the agriculture sector in Africa.

“To address these challenges, TELA project is working towards commercialization of transgenic drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize varieties to enhance food security in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Dr. Kanangire said.

“This technology has undergone regulatory approval in four other countries and will soon be available to farmers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, and Nigeria.  The TELA maize project is the result of a decade of excellent breeding work under Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) partnerships that began in 2008.”

Noting that farmers in South Africa were already benefiting from stem-borer and fall armyworm-resistant maize varieties derived from the TELA project, Dr. Kanangire said the success of AATF in the environmental release of TELA products in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mozambique and Kenya over the last three years is a course for celebration.

He also noted that long-term public-private partnerships are critical in strengthening the maize value chain in Africa, which in turn can contribute to food security, economic productivity, and the prosperity of farmers.