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A model project

CIMMYT E-News, vol 3 no. 3, March 2006


Donors and farmers agree – Project gets high marks for important work

The Africa Maize Stress project (AMS), in which CIMMYT is a key partner, was termed “A flagship project” in a recently completed review. A three-member panel from the German Corporation for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) spent the week from 24 February–1 March with AMS staff and partners, to assess the performance of the project’s work from 2003-20005 and make recommendations for its future direction. Two of the six days were spent on field visits to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s (KARI) Embu Center, one of the project’s major maize breeding sites; Bar Sauri Millennium Village, a beneficiary of AMS maize varieties; and Western Seed Company, a local seed enterprise that is multiplying and marketing the varieties.

Team leader, Dr. Manfed van Eckert, said the reviewers saw in AMS, qualities that could serve as a model for similar multi-faceted projects in Africa. Among these were the “excellent working relations with national partners, and the Eastern and Central African Maize and Wheat (ECAMAW) Research Network.”

The review congratulated CIMMYT maize breeder and AMS project coordinator Alpha Diallo for his management of the complex, multi-donor funded, partnership project. AMS is supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the Rockefeller Foundation, and works with national agricultural research systems (NARS), NGOs and seed companies in 10 eastern and central African countries.

Review team member Jeffrey Luhanga commented that all too often breeders’ improved varieties “sit on the shelf for lack of solid partnerships with the seed sector. But this project’s successes are having a direct bearing on household nutrition, and especially on weanling children, among the most vulnerable people in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The dramatic quadrupling of maize yields recorded in 2005 at the Sauri Millennium village illustrates the point.

“The program has gone to the grassroots level; it is benefiting the people of Africa. Congratulations!” said van Eckert.

The Africa Maize Stress project is developing maize varieties that are tolerant to drought, low soil fertility, Striga weed, and endemic pests and diseases (maize streak virus, blight, and grey leaf spot), and is working with local partners to ensure that these varieties reach resource-poor farmers in its mandate regions. The project’s current phase is stepping up the development of imidazolinone-resistant (IR) maize varieties for Striga weed control, and quality protein maize (QPM) suited for African ecologies.

The GTZ team recommended that in its next phase, AMS advance current activities, but also broaden its geographical horizons, through strategic partnerships in “…war-torn areas in Southern Sudan and Somalia,” and “investigate sustainable financing options for maize breeding programs in the region.”

Other partners in the project include the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and national research programs like KARI in Kenya.

For more information contact Alpha Diallo (a.diallo@cgiar.org)