A green lining in the clouds

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Ramasela Melita Somela, a farmer from GaMokaba village of Limpopo Province, South Africa has been farming for over fifteen years. Over the years Ramasela has had many challenges – from being a female farmer to high costs of farming inputs. Even then she has never lost focus of her passion for farming, the sole purpose; to sustain her family.

Maize is the most widely grown staple food crop in Africa so in order to meet the demand of the growing population, research into improved maize cultivars is essential. The majority of farmers rely on good cultivars as well as conducive climatic conditions to produce the best yields. For smallholder farmers, maize is both a food crop and a cash crop and the actual yield equates to the household food security and family income for the year.

However, up to 50% of the maize crop was lost in the 2015 season in Southern Africa, according to the World Food Programme.  This puts greater emphasis on the need for new and innovative technologies and solutions to address this ever advancing problem.

“Drought is one of the major problems faced by the smallholder farmers of South Africa, resulting in major crop losses annually. They rely on good harvests for self-sufficiency and food security,” said Dr Kingstone Mashingaide, maize breeding team lead at South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and country coordinator for the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, which is a public-private partnership to develop and deploy drought tolerant and insect protected maize hybrids, royalty-free to smallholder farmers.

Kingstone was speaking at the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research and Development (GCARD3) held in Johannesburg, South Africa. Climate change and its ever increasing challenges for a food secure world was one of the topics discussed at the conference.

The conventional drought-tolerant hybrid varieties of maize are expected to provide 20 to 35% more grain yield than other commercial hybrids. In the past two years, the ARC has managed to register and release 10 hybrids sold under the trade name DroughtTEGO™.

With this new technology, farmers such as Ramasela will now have a better chance to contribute towards food security, ensuring that the GCARD3 conference theme “no one is left behind” rings true.

“If I can make a farmer happy by giving him the best cultivar, I can retire happily”, said Dr Mashingaidze.

Blogpost and picture by Sneha James, #GCARD3 Social Reporter –snehajames85[at]gmail.com

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.


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