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africa project

Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa

Start date 2016 – End date 2019

The Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project aims to diminish devastating constraints in maize production that occur simultaneously across many regions in sub-Saharan Africa. The project develops new improved varieties and hybrids with resistance and tolerance to drought, low soil fertility, heat, diseases such as Maize Lethal Necrosis and pests affecting a large target of maize production areas in the region. Targeted countries are in eastern (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), southern (Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe) and West Africa (Benin, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria). These countries account for nearly 72 percent of all maize area in sub-Saharan Africa and include more than 26 million households, or well over 176 million people who depend on maize-based agriculture for their food security and economic well-being.

Maize occupies over 35 million hectares of sub-Saharan Africa’s estimated 200 million hectares of land and produced under diverse climatic and socioeconomic conditions. Maize, which is grown mainly under rainfed conditions, is susceptible to increasing intensity and frequency of drought due to effects of climate change. In addition, the majority of smallholder farmers cannot afford the recommended amounts of nitrogen fertilizers in these drought-prone areas where low-fertility soils are prevalent.  These, in addition to other stresses increase the risk of crop failure that negatively affects income, food security and nourishment of millions of smallholder farmers and their families.

Scientists involved with the project are developing and promoting improved stress-tolerant varieties expected to increase maize productivity by 30 to 50 percent.  The project aims to produce estimated 54,000 tons of certified seed to put into the hands of more than 5.4 million smallholder farmer households by the end of 2019.

Besides promoting available stress tolerant varieties developed by the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa and Improved Maize for African Soils Projects that concluded in December 2015, STMA will develop 70 new improved stress-tolerant varieties using innovative modern breeding technologies.

Funding Institutions

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • U.S. Agency for International Development

Principal coordinator

Cosmos Magorokosho

project website



Use innovative breeding tools and techniques applied for increasing the rate of genetic gain in the maize breeding pipeline.

Increase commercialization of improved multiple-stress-tolerant maize varieties with gender-preferred traits by the sub-Saharan African seed sector.

Increase seed availability and farmer uptake of stress-tolerant maize varieties in target countries.

Optimize investment impact through effective project oversight, monitoring, evaluation and communication.