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DTMA building capacity for maize research in the Kingdom of Swaziland

DTMA19 During 25 – 30 June 2012, CRP MAIZE and FAO-Swaziland supported the participation of 32 maize researchers and technicians in a maize training course in Mbabane, Swaziland. The course attracted agricultural researchers and extension staff from the Department of Agricultural Research and Special Services (DARSS), NGOs, and seed companies. MAIZE supported participants from Botswana and Lesotho. Course objectives included a refresher for researchers and technical staff on implementing field trials, seed production, and use of Fieldbook software. The training combined theory and field practicals on experimental design, data analysis, and identification of maize pests and diseases. The training was officially opened by the FAO representative in Swaziland, Michael Connelly, who emphasized the importance of trial management and variety testing in Swaziland.

The course gave researchers and technicians insights into variety testing. This was particularly relevant for Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, as they don’t have breeding programs and depend on CIMMYT’s regional trials to identify maize germplasm adapted to their countries. The participants were very eager to learn how to design, implement, and analyze mother-baby trials, which evaluate new maize varieties with farming communities. The mother trial is grown in the center of the community and contains 12-20 new and old varieties, and farmers grow subsets of four varieties each in baby trials in their own fields, using their own management practices. At harvest, they provide feedback about the new varieties, referring to traits that are important to them such as yield, taste, or storage pest resistance.

“I wish to thank CIMMYT for conducting the course,” said Similo Mavimbela, a senior research officer from the DARSS. “It is my feeling that the participants benefited from the expertise of CIMMYT and gained better understanding of the experimental designs. We are now going to employ the most relevant design for different experiments and save time and space. We also have better understanding of the MBTs approach to implement on-farm trials. With support from FAO, we will be implementing the on-farm trial this season so skills obtained from this course will be put to good use.” Mavimbela added that they had also learnt how to use Fieldbook software to prepare seed, produce seed labels, design trials, and analyze data.

CIMMYT thanks the course organizers and resource persons Cinisani Tfwala, Abraham Cutter Dlamini, Hanson Hlophe, Thembinkosi Gumedze, and Similo Mavimbela from the DARSS, Michael Connelly of FAO-Swaziland, and CIMMYT’s Peter Setimela, Cosmos Magorokosho, Jill Cairns, Sebastian Mawere, and Simba Chisoro.