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October 11th, 2017 / CIMMYT

Drought is a major limiting factor for maize production and can reduce maize yields by up to nearly 40 percent. In the past 10 years, most farmers in southern Africa have experienced around 1–3 drought years, potentially due to climate change.

A new study from scientists with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) shows that drought tolerant (DT) maize varieties can provide farming families in Zimbabwe an extra 9 months of food at no additional cost. As climate change related weather events such as variable rainfall and drought continue to impact the southern African nation at an increasing rate, these varieties could provide a valuable safety net for farmers and consumers.

The study found that households that grew DT maize were able to harvest 617 kilograms more maize per hectare than households that did not grow DT maize varieties. This translates into $240 per hectare extra income for households that grow DT maize varieties, equivalent to 9 months’ worth of additional food security.

As 93 percent of households surveyed grow improved maize varieties using seed purchased from local markets, this shows that by switching to DT varieties local farmers could greatly improve their livelihoods and food security at no additional cost. Currently, only 30 percent of households surveyed grow DT varieties. Read more