The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded US$24.6m (Approximately UGX95bn) to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to support efforts aimed at promoting the adoption of a new drought tolerant and pest resistant maize variety.
The financial assistance will enable AATF to support public institutions and companies in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa to adopt a new maize variety that is drought tolerant and and resistant to the destructive Fall Armyworm.
The new maize hybrids branded as TELA maize have been enhanced through biotechnology to improve their drought tolerance and ability to resist attacks by insects.
The seeds have been tested in field trials in Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Uganda, and shown increased drought tolerance, excellent protection against stem borers, and partial but significant protection against the newest menace, Fall Armyworm.
According to AATF, the TELA hybrids on average yield 30% more than conventional hybrids. And when exposed to heavy infestation of pests, the new hybrids can yield 50% more.
The new financial assistance complements USAID’s ongoing $5 million commitment to the project. The new effort comes at a time when the continent is being challenged by the Fall Army Worm, drought and high population pressure.
Approximately 15% of the maize harvest in East Africa is lost to stem borers each year. The Fall Armyworm threatens to destroy up to 25% more of the harvest. Drought is becoming more frequent because of climate change. The new maize hybrids offer significant protection from these threats and can help protect the harvest and the livelihoods of African farmers.
Dr. Denis Kyetere, the Executive Director AATF, said the grant would support the organization and its partners in moving the TELA products to smallholder farmers who are most affected by frequent droughts and insect menace.
‘This is indeed great news for AATF, smallholder farmers and our partners. 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,’ said Denis.
With the grant, AATF and its partners will pursue the regulatory approval and dissemination of the new biotech seeds across the six partner countries in Africa.
The TELA® Maize Project builds on progress made from a decade of breeding work under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project. Through WEMA, 101 conventional drought-tolerant maize hybrids DroughtTEGO., and five TELA hybrids have been released for adoption by farmers in the various countries with the new TELA hybrids released in South Africa.
The Project partners include National Agriculture Research systems in the six countries, Monsanto, CIMMYT and African seed companies. AATF coordinates the partnership.