In the context of current Rio+20 discussions and events, CIMMYT staff played key roles in an 08 June 2012 media briefing co-organized by ICRAF-World Agroforestry Center, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The event centered on efforts to address climate change challenges to agriculture. Speakers included CIMMYT scientists Tsedeke Abate, Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project leader, and Stephen Mugo, Global Maize Program breeder, who highlighted DTMA and other relevant examples CIMMYT work.
“Maize is a champion crop in Africa,” said Tsedeke Abate, highlighting the crop’s role as a staple food in the region but one susceptible to changing climates. “Problems in African agriculture are complex, so they need complex solutions.” Maize varieties that can tolerate drought and heat stress constitute one such solution, according to Tsedeke Abate. About 90 drought tolerant maize varieties have been released so far under the DTMA project, working with national agriculture systems and seed companies and based on CIMMYT donor germplasm.
Abate stressed the importance of local solutions for agricultural problems. “If you want to remove the most difficult weed, use the bullock that knows the weed,” he said, citing an Ethiopian adage. Abate mentioned DTMA efforts to build capacity in the next generation of African breeders and national agricultural research systems—key CIMMYT partners. “We can make a difference with what we have now,” said Abate, emphasizing that today’s knowledge base can provide solutions to climate change and other challenges facing Africa.
“By 2050, the demand for maize in Africa is going to double,” said Stephen Mugo. This demand may not be satisfied with maize Africa’s maize crop threatened by drought and rising temperatures, according to Mugo. “A temperature increase of one degree centrigrade could reduce maize production 20 percent,” he said, referring to a recent study led by Stanford University scientist David Lobell. Mugo also highlighted the importance of conservation agriculture for addressing climate change in Africa.
Ambassador Amina Mohammed, the UNEP Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director, emphasized the importance of the media to spread news about work to address climate change and issues of water quality, food security and agriculture, and the creation of green jobs. ICRAF director general Tony Simmons and ICRISAT scientists Said Silim and Dave Harris highlighted their centers’ work and its strong relevance in helping farmers face climate change. Live tweeting at the event (hashtags #Nairobi2Rio, #Rio+20 and #Rio4ag) tracked the conversation and linked it to the global dialogue.
Rio+20 is the abbreviated name for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012. This conference comes 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit that was held in Rio, where countries adopted Agenda 21 —a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.