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ZM 309 gets presidential nod in Malawi

On 3 September 2009, a new drought tolerant maize variety received presidential approval in Malawi. The variety, ZM 309, known by locals as ‘msungabanja’ (that which takes care of the family), will be included in the national farm input subsidy program and is to be planted by farmers in Malawi’s most drought prone areas this October.

Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika hosted CIMMYT’s Wilfred Mwangi, project leader of Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA), and Peter Setimela, maize breeder, at the State House in Lilongwe. The two briefed him on CIMMYT’s maize research activities and collaboration in Malawi, which date back to 1974. “The new maize variety, ZM 309, released under the auspices of the DTMA Project, will give Malawi farmers an advantage because it is high yielding and drought tolerant,” said President Bingu wa Mutharika on receiving a 10-ton consignment of ZM 309 seed presented by Mwangi and Setimela on behalf of CIMMYT. “We welcome this research because it will help Malawi cope with climate change and improve food security.”

The variety will be grown in Balaka, Chikwawa, Nsanje, and Karonga, and the consignment is adequate to plant a minimum of 400 hectares. “We at CIMMYT commend Malawi’s leadership for implementing innovative agricultural policies that have made the country a great example for improving national food security in Africa,” said Mwangi. “We will work with the government of Malawi to help farmers cope with climate change by using drought tolerant maize technology.”

ZM 309 is a drought tolerant, open-pollinated maize variety, meaning farmers have the option to save seed for subsequent seasons with minimum yield loss. ZM 309 was developed through collaborative research efforts with CIMMYT, Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and Chitedze Research Station. CIMMYT also included an information leaflet on ZM 309 in each 10-kilo bag of seed as part of efforts to provide information about new varieties to farmers. CIMMYT is most grateful to Andrew Daudi, Malawi’s principal secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and to Jeff Luhanga, controller of Agricultural Extension and Technical Services from the same department, for their support and facilitation assistance. Collaboration with SeedCo Malawi in producing the required seed is also acknowledged, and particular gratitude is due to SeedCo employees Dellings Phiri, general manager, and John Lungu, operations executive. Also participating in the event was Anne Wangalachi, CIMMYT science writer/editor.