The annual collaborators meeting of the New Seeds Initiative for Maize in Southern Africa (NSIMA), which included the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Project, was held in Lilongwe, Malawi, during 13-14 August, 2008; with 35 participants from 9 southern African countries sharing their progress reports on in-country projects supported by NSIMA and DTMA, and being updated on some of the new tools in crop research.
The meeting was opened by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, A.T. Daudi. He emphasized the need for continued development of the maize sector through facilitating government policies, illustrating this with the advances Malawi has made in improving maize production through government funded input support subsidies. These policies have increased maize yields in Malawi in recent years, and enabled the country to export significant quantities of grain to other southern African countries. Other presentations were “National Agricultural Policies for Advancement of the Seed Sector in Malawi” by J. Luhanga (Controller of Agricultural Extension and Technical Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Republic of Malawi); “Use of Marker Assisted Breeding for Improving Yield Gains in Maize” by Bindi Vivek, CIMMYT Maize Breeder, and “Advances in Drought Breeding in South Africa” by K. Mashingaidze (Department Manager: Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, ARC-Grain Crops Institute, South Africa).
Notably in 2008, the research projects released several new varieties – many of which were CIMMYT open pollinated varieties such as ZM309, ZM523, ZM623, and ZM721. Other outcomes were: basic seed production by national programs for distribution to seed houses and community seed producers; identification of improved varieties from regional and national trials; and training workshops for research associates in Angola and Malawi.
One of the highlights of the meeting was the award of prizes for the best national breeding team and the best technology dissemination team. These prizes are awarded through the DTMA Project and serve to stimulate excellence in breeding and rapid scale-up of improved drought mitigating technologies, such as improved varieties. For 2008, the awards were won by Zambia for the best breeding team, and Zimbabwe for the best technology dissemination team. Our congratulations to the two national teams!