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Asian and African maize breeders and agronomists take on drought

October 10, 2008

From 8-13 September 2008, a diverse selection of 26 breeders and agronomists gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to explore the use of conventional and biotechnology tools to improve maize productivity under drought stress in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The Seghal Foundation and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), under the leadership of Stephen Mugo, CIMMYT maize breeder, organized the workshop. It emphasized the use and management of controlled drought stress environments and screening for drought tolerance.

Participants came from five countries represented by the Water Efficient Maize for Africa Project’s country product development team (Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda), as well as Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Iran, and Afghanistan. Monsanto also sent a representative. The coursed opened with remarks by Mpoko Bokanga, then Executive Director of AATF, and Marianne Bänziger, Director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program. Participants then visited the Bioscience’s Eastern and Central Africa laboratories at the International Livestock Research Institute campus in Nairobi and CIMMYT’s drought and low nitrogen stress screening sites at Kiboko. Both sites are jointly managed by CIMMYT and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). Throughout, presenters urged attendants to apply their newfound skills and expertise to their work back home.

The training was both theoretical and practical; applying biotechnology tools and biometrical techniques in a maize breeding program as well as the role of ‘stateof the-art’ IT tools. Participants also had a chance to get their hands dirty and see how trials should work when they learned how to set up, manage, and evaluate trials for maize under drought stress. In addition, they evaluated trial stages from nursery management through harvesting in both conventional and open quarantine sites.

1Joseph Mureithi, Deputy Director of Research and Technology in KARI officially closed the course, with remarks by J.N. Hanumantharaya of the Seghal Foundation.

The CIMMYT team comprised Marianne Bänziger, Stephen Mugo, Dan Makumbi, Kassa Semagn, Yoseph Beyene, P.H. Zaidi, Joseph Kasango, and Andrew Chavangi. Jacob Mignouna of AATF represented the WEMA Project, while Vanessa Cook of Monsanto gave insights into private sector approaches to biotechnology. Sain Dass of the Indian Council on Agricultural Research (ICAR), India, presented on his experience using single crosses in India.