New varieties of maize aim to fight poverty for farmers and producers in West Africa. Developed by the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research’s (CORAF), the varieties can help withstand pests, diseases, and climate change effects.
“The most important successes are the adoption rates of improved maize varieties and their impacts on the well-being of maize producers,” says Mamadou Moustapha Lô Samb, Program Assistant at CORAF and Agreement Focal Person for The West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and CORAF relationship. On average, 88 percent of maize producers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mali adopted new varieties of maize. Incomes rose approximately 35 percent in these four countries.
“The results of the study show that 28 percent and 17 percent of producers responding in Benin and Cote d’Ivoire respectively rise above the poverty line by adopting at least one of these improved varieties of maize,” says Samb. “In the Sahel, 27 percent and 36 percent of reporting producers respectively in Burkina Faso and Mali aren’t poor once they adopt at least one variety of improved maize.”
Researchers at CORAF consult institution leaders, researchers, and producers to identify ways improved maize can successfully cater to many needs. According to CORAF, this participatory approach ensures improvements in maize production will benefit every individual involved. “This allows for a real sharing of knowledge and of lessons learned between these different stakeholders and further strengthened partnerships between the research institutions of the sub-region,” says Samb.
The project to strengthen maize value chains not only impacts maize producers, but consumers as well. Maize is an important crop in West Africa, as it is part of the diets of 50 percent of the population. CORAF predicts these consumers will see improved food and nutrition security.
Despite CORAF’s direct involvement with maize growing communities, the program’s next steps will teach policymakers how to support these communities on their own. “The literature hasn’t sufficiently discussed how to equip deciders and policymakers with the elements necessary to craft agricultural policies responding to the true needs of maize producers at the base,” says Samb. Such policies, he notes, would ensure that CORAF’s impact on maize production persists for all individuals depending on the new varieties for their livelihoods.
Photo courtesy of CORAF.