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CIMMYT, IITA, KARI train African maize breeders in Kenya

From 18 August to 4 September 2008, 40 maize breeders drawn from national agricultural research systems and private seed companies are attending a training workshop targeted at the use of modern maize breeding techniques.

The workshop is jointly organized by CIMMYT, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) through cofunding by the DTMA, QPM-D and NSIMA projects. The participants were selected from among applicants in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The training will mainly take place at CIMMYT offices in Nairobi with visits to Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa (BecA) laboratory and CIMMYT-KARI’s stress screening field sites at Kiboko and Embu.

The thematic and interactive training course comprises lectures, demonstrations, and discussions. Group work and field and laboratory visits will cover theoretical and practical aspects of maize breeding, including both classical and advanced technologies, for topics such as: breeding maize for increased yield and tolerance to stresses (drought, insect pests, diseases, Striga weed, low nitrogen); improving maize nutritional quality; use of advanced technologies in maize breeding, including marker assisted selection and doubled haploids; and evaluation and release of improved maize varieties, including seed production. Complementary to this, the participants will be introduced to biometric and information technology tools, including those developed by CIMMYT: Fieldbook, Maize Finder, and Seed Book. During the “networking and training” session, participants will receive information on support for regional and sub-regional maize breeding initiatives and for training.

While opening the course, CIMMYT Global Maize Program Director Marianne Bänziger challenged the breeders to deliver on the promise of increased yields to farmers through breeding for improved resistance and tolerance to the prevailing stresses: “Your work determines the future; the results will be seen in years to come. I challenge you to make history by developing maize varieties that will have better adoption rates and improve the livelihoods of Africa’s farmers.” Participants are keen to rise to the challenge. “To increase farmer adoption of improved maize varieties, breeders have to go an extra mile; private seed companies should establish an extension department that will promote the new varieties through demonstrations to farmers,” said y Olumide Ibikunle of Premier Seed Company, Nigeria. Saleem Esmail of Western Seed Company, Kenya, added: “For a new maize variety to be well promoted and adopted, it needs to be completely outstanding from other varieties, and if a seed company is keen on remaining profitable then it has to invest in promoting it.”

The course is coordinated by CIMMYT Maize Breeder Cosmos Magorokosho, assisted by resource persons from CIMMYT, IITA, KARI, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and private seed companies. The CIMMYT team comprises Marianne Bänziger, Alpha Diallo, Stephen Mugo, Dan Makumbi, Hugo De Groote, Fred Kanampiu, John MacRobert, Bindi Vivek, and Peter Setimela. The IITA team includes Abebe Menkir, Serah Hearne and Baffour Badu-Apraku. AGRA’s contribution is by Jane Ininda. Javier Betran of Syngenta Europe will give insights into the private sector perspectives and strategies.