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Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa

Start date 2010 – End date 2018

The Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA) program is a collaboration between the national agricultural systems of Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania, and CIMMYT, the International Center for Research in the Semi-Arid Tropics, the International Livestock Research Institute, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa, the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation – University of Queensland, Murdoch University, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), and the Australian government via the Australian Centere for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Through participatory research and development with farmers, extension agencies, non-governmental organizations, universities, and agribusinesses along the value chain, the program aims to improve maize and legume productivity by 30 percent and to reduce the expected downside yield risk by 30 percent on approximately 500,000 farms within 10 years.

The focal countries of program research are Australia, Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Why Australia? Given the emerging problem of climate change (for example, an International Institute for Environment and Development) model suggests that Tanzania’s gross domestic product will decline by 1 percent annually by 2030), existing capacity in Australia will be invaluable to helping this region with needed adaptations. Australia could benefit from the drought tolerant and disease resistant maize germplasm developed by CIMMYT for Africa. Africa could, in turn, benefit from advanced GxE analysis techniques applied by Australian breeders which could also initiate more systematic germplasm exchange between CIMMYT and Australia. Further benefits could come from the exchange of legumes and Rhizobium strains.

  • Crop management
  • Conservation agriculture intercrop
  • Farmer family gathering
  • Checking crops
  • Maize and legume
  • Hoeing the field

Funding Institutions

  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Principal coordinator

Mulugetta Mekuria Asfaw

project website



To characterize maize-legume production and input and output value chain systems and impact pathways, and identify broad systemic constraints and options for field testing

To test and develop productive, resilient and sustainable smallholder maize-legume cropping systems and innovation systems for local scaling out

To increase the range of maize and legume varieties available through accelerated breeding, regional testing and release, and availability of performance data

To support the development of regional and local innovations system

Capacity building to increase the efficiency of agricultural research today and in the future