The Water Efficient Maize for Africa Project as an Example of a Public–Private Partnership
The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project was started in 2008 with the main objective of developing drought tolerant white hybrid maize for smallholder farmers of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) that yields at least 20 % more under drought conditions compared to commercial check hybrids. To achieve this, a combination of breeding and biotech approaches are followed to introduce drought tolerance in African maize varieties. To protect the yield benefit, the insect protection trait (Bt) was added in the year 2011. This work is conducted through a public–private partnership led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation based in Kenya with collaborating partners that include the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Monsanto Company, and five National Agricultural Research Systems for Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda, and the Republic of South Africa. Among the key achievements for the first 5 years of the project (Phase 1) include the successful running of confined field trials for transgenic maize varieties in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa and the submission of conventional drought tolerant maize hybrids into the national performance trials in Kenya. The next Phase 2 of the program (2013–2017) involves the deployment of the WEMA products. The first WEMA conventional drought tolerant maize hybrids are scheduled to be released to farmers in the year 2013. These are WEMA hybrids that outperformed some of the best local check hybrids on the market. Next for release in 2016/2017, subject to receiving appropriate regulatory approvals, will be the transgenic products of WEMA which will carry two biotech traits, Bt insect protection trait and the drought tolerance trait from the cold shock protein B (cspB). The overall impact of WEMA project will be the availability of both transgenic and non-transgenic drought tolerant maize hybrids for use by smallholder farmers in SSA.
KeywordsDrought Stress Drought Tolerance Late Embryogenesis Abundant Smallholder Farmer Private Partnership
We wish to acknowledge the WEMA team members from all the partners (AATF, CIMMYT, Monsanto, and the NARs) who are working hard to make this public–private partnership successful. We would also like to acknowledge the many people who are not directly part of WEMA, but are contributing immensely to this effort, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and USAID for funding support. In particular we would like to thank BASF Plant Sciences department for their contributions to the drought traits screening pipeline through the collaborative program with Monsanto and the following individuals: Dr. Mark Lawson (Monsanto), Dr. William R. Reeves (Monsanto), Mark Edge (Monsanto), Mrs. Nancy Muchiri (AATF), Dr. Francis Nang’ayo (AATF), Dr. Gospel Omanya (AATF), and Mr. Alhaji Tejan-Cole (AATF) for their contributions to this manuscript.
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