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TELA Maize Project

The word ‘TELA’ is derived from the Latin word TUTELA which means ‘Protection’. The TELA Maize Project is a public-private partnership led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) working towards the commercialization of transgenic drought-tolerant and insect-protected (TELA®) maize varieties to enhance food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Launched in 2018, the TELA Maize Project builds on progress made from a decade of excellent breeding work under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project.

Africa is a drought-prone continent, making farming risky for millions of smallholders who rely on rainfall to water their crops. Climate change will only worsen the problem. Identifying ways to mitigate drought risk, stabilize yields, and encourage small-scale farmers to adopt best management practices is fundamental to realizing food security and improved livelihoods for the continent. Drought is just one of the many challenges facing Sub-Saharan African farmers. Insects present additional challenges as farmers in the developing world have little or no resources to effectively manage them. Insect protection complements and protects yield made possible through research and development.

Through TELA, AATF and its partners are pursuing the regulatory approval and dissemination of new biotech seeds across six partner countries in Africa.

Farmers benefit from TELA maize, which provides better drought tolerance, protection against stem borers, and partial but significant protection against FAW. As a result, farmers will spend less money on insecticides and reduce their exposure to these chemicals. They will also enjoy higher profits due to improved yields and better grain quality.

Seed companies can receive license rights to produce and commercialize the new TELA® hybrids under their private brand. Licensed seed companies will access the technology royalty-free for them to produce and sell the seed brand to farmers at prevailing market prices. Better yield performance, combined with improved seed quality, will deliver more value to farmers and create more demand and potential for the seed brand.

The new transgenic hybrids will be made available to farmers by seed companies in Africa through a royalty-free license from AATF. Farmers are already growing TELA maize in South Africa. Other countries are in different stages of the approval process, which will determine when farmers can access the improved TELA seeds.