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CIMMYT Global Maize Program experiences Zimbabwe

From 28 February to 3 March, the Global Maize Program (GMP) team and participants from the Socioeconomics and Genetic Resources programs (forming ‘GMP Plus’) were in Harare, Zimbabwe for their annual review and work planning meeting. It was a good time for old colleagues to reunite and for the many new colleagues to become better integrated—finally putting faces to Bish Das, Yoseph Beyene, Kassa Semagn, Sarah Kibera, and Héctor Sánchez.

For four days the participants critically reviewed on-going and proposed projects. Presentations on activities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia set the stage for lively discussions and clearly-defined follow-ups. Covered topics included the germplasm bank, molecular breeding, new germplasm, seed systems, more effective product communication, and socio-economic approaches for various projects. Project scientists also identified and listed points of interaction with other units such as corporate communications, administration, and human resources to ensure broad support for project activities.

“Last year was a great year for maize research at CIMMYT and our funding base has become stronger,” said Marianne Bänziger, GMP director. “But let’s also face the challenges by scaling up molecular breeding so that it indeed accelerates our breeding progress by getting the best germplasm more rapidly through varietal release and to more farmers, and by being clever in how we interact in a patchwork of multidisciplinary projects that span the globe. I won’t tell you the solutions are easy, but we have the right skills and let’s be open to learning new ones to effectively tackle these challenges.”

Teamwork and cooperation were recurrent themes in the meeting. “I have only been with the GMP for four years, but I find the sense of teamwork truly outstanding,” said Guillermo Ortiz-Ferrara, who leads the Hill Maize Research Project in Nepal.

Participants also got a taste of reality in Harare. The meeting was held in a beautiful location about three kilometers from the CIMMT Zimbabwe station where Internet access was slow and daily life was affected by a generator which ran out by 9:00 p.m.

“We salute our Zimbabwe colleagues for keeping our commitment to the development of maize in Zimbabwe and to the uplifting of poor farmers within the region despite challenging circumstances,” said Wilfred Mwangi, leader of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Project. “We also thank CIMMYT management for having faith in and continuing to support the GMP work in Zimbabwe.”

On the last day, Héctor Sánchez and Anne Wangalachi gave a presentationon web interaction tools that focused on CIMMYT’s Wiki, Maize Trials Reporter (which is in final testing stages before commercial release), Maize Doctor, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) module. The last three are hosted on the DTMA Project website (http://dtma.cimmyt.org). Sarah Kibera, GMP program advisor, presented a proposed Program Management System, developed in Nairobi by Aaron Pesa with assistance from Kibera, Kimani Kamau, and Bänziger. The system (also in final testing) is expected to assist in more effective planning, better use of resources, and increased ease of interaction. “This will improve project communications since, with just a few clicks, you can access information on teams’ work plans, reports, and timelines all across CIMMYT,” said Kamau.

The meeting included a party to honor Augustine Langyintuo, outgoing CIMMYT economist, and meeting participants expressed thanks for their CIMMYT-Zimbabwe colleagues who provided logistical support to make the meeting successful under challenging national circumstances, especially Mulugetta Mekuria, Bindi Vivek, Irene Gwabi, Tsungai Gumbo, Simbarashe Chisoro, Fred Sikirivawu, and Mafiyo Wadi.