The African Agricultural Technology Foundation has announced a $24.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of efforts to make insect-resistant and drought-tolerant maize available to farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The grant will enable AATF and its partners to advance regulatory approval and the dissemination of biotech hybrid seeds to smallholder farmers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. In field trials, the new seeds have shown increased tolerance to drought, excellent protection against stem borers, and partial but significant protection against a new menace, fall armyworm — with a 30 percent higher yield on average than conventional hybrids. Partner organizations in the project, which AATF coordinates, include National Agriculture Research Systems in all six countries, Monsanto, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and African seed companies.
According to AATF, smallholder farms are the most susceptible to losses due to drought — which are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change — and insect menace. Stem borers destroy about 15 percent of the maize harvest in East Africa each year, while the fall armyworm threatens another 25 percent.
"This is indeed great news for AATF, smallholder farmers, and our partners," said AATF executive director Denis Kyetere. "We are pleased that the Gates Foundation and USAID value the role of biotechnology in addressing the effects of climate change across the continent. With continued support of various country governments, we believe we shall offer dependable solutions within five years."