“Seven years ago, we were farming with farm-saved seeds with no problems. But since then, the weather has been changing frequently. There is either too much rain or not enough.”
Maize has long been one of the most important staple crops around the world, leading in both production and consumption. For the more than 200 million households in sub-Saharan Africa that depend on maize for their livelihoods, climate change poses an existential threat. Erratic rainfall and prolonged dry spells are devastating to farmers relying on rain to irrigate their fields, and what crops they can grow are left vulnerable to pests and disease.
“Seven years ago, we were farming with farm-saved seeds with no problems,” says Doris, a farmer from Kenya who grows maize to support her family, “But since then, the weather has been changing frequently. There is either too much rain or not enough.”
Gambling on the weather to yield a good harvest in the era of climate change can push smallholder farmers deeper into poverty. Recognizing this challenge, in the 1980s CGIAR scientists at CIMMYT began researching climate-smart varieties of maize that can withstand droughts, thrive in nutrient-poor soil and be resilient to pests and pathogens.
Today, farmers using new varieties of maize developed with CGIAR research are reporting as much as 40% higher yields in severe drought conditions. The extra income from these larger harvests means an additional nine months of food security for farmers and their families.
Climate-smart maize is a lifeline to farmers like Doris, who is not only feeding her children and grandchildren, but also financing the family’s future with the income she has generated from selling the surplus.
“It’s been important for my children to get an education so they can choose a work path that best suits them.”
Learn more about climate-smart maize.