Maize project supports partners in COVID-19 response

29 April 2020

As the world continues the fight to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, food production, employment, income and welfare of people in Africa, as well as in other parts of the world, need to be given extra attention. More than 70% of the rural population in West and Central Africa depend on subsistence farming, and this is already under threat from climate change.

Maize project supports partners in COVID-19 response
Stress tolerant maize varieties thrive in harsh conditions.

The COVID-19 lockdown is now disrupting the supply of critical farm inputs such as seed during the planting season, which can result in low farm yields, food price hikes, and limited food availability, particularly for the poor and most vulnerable groups.

May and June are the most critical months for planting maize and other cereals in this region. The COVID-19 lockdown is forcing many African governments to develop guidelines that keep agricultural value chains alive while adhering to public health guidelines.

The Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project, which is jointly implemented by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and IITA, has developed and deployed multiple stress-tolerant and productive maize varieties to help farmers adapt to climate change. CIMMYT and IITA are working in collaboration with diverse national and private sector partners in eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa and four countries in West Africa.

Maize project supports partners in COVID-19 response
Woman roasting corn supplied by smallholder farmer.

In West Africa alone, the national partners and seed companies in Benin, Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria produced 49,293 metric tons (MT) of certified seed of stress-resilient maize varieties in 2019 under STMA with a continual supply of breeder seed from IITA. The available certified seed of resilient maize varieties will enable partners to reach farmers on time to plant and produce maize during the COVID-19 lockdown in different locations, and benefit more than 3.5 million households.

According to IITA Maize Breeder, Abebe Menkir, the ability of smallholder farmers to increase food production is critical during this pandemic and beyond. He added that the production and availability of an additional 19 MT of breeder seed and 1441 MT of foundation seed of stressresilient maize varieties with partners in the four STMA project participating countries would contribute to the further multiplication of foundation and certified seed for planting in 2021.

“Such strengthened adaptive capacity of our partners and the partnership platforms created by STMA will contribute to building the resilience of farming communities even when the impact of COVID-19 lingers beyond 2020,” he concluded.