Written by Raymond Gichuki
A new initiative has been launched to upscale use of commercialisation of StrigAwayTM – an herbicide-resistant seed and treatment – to improve productivity and competitiveness of smallholder maize farmers.
The initiative funded by the USAID brings together the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation through a programme
With this grant, AATF will scale Funding provided through the award will help AATF and its partners, BASF, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and six local seed companies, promote the technology package in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
“This partnership is really about increasing the food security of thousands of smallholder farmers in East Africa. Farmers who have access to this technology will have better maize yields and higher earnings from the sale of excess produce,” said Denis T. Kyetere, the Executive Director, AATF.
StrigAwayTM combats Striga, a parasitic plant that affects the agricultural productivity of approximately1.4 million hectares in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Commonly known as witchweed, this parasitic plant can cause a 20 to 80 percent crop loss in maize, leading many farmers to abandon fields with heavy Striga infestation. Maize, the staple food for the majority of East Africans, is especially susceptible to Striga and continuous cereal monocropping has intensified the Striga problem. StrigAwayTM, which includes conventionally bred herbicide resistant maize varieties and an herbicide seed coating, was developed by BASF and CIMMYT.
As part of the United States government’s Feed the Future Initiative, Partnering for Innovation is expanding commercial access of transformational technologies to smallholder farmers to improve productivity and incomes quickly and sustainably.
“Large problems can’t be solved alone, which is why this is Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation’s largest grant to date, totaling more than US$3 million. It involves multiple partners including an international NGO, a multi-national corporation, a research institute, and local private sector companies,” said Brenna McKay, Partnering for Innovation Grants Program Director.
By the end of the three-year performance-based grant, there will be a total of 4,000 demonstration plots and nearly 1,000 metric tonnes of seed sold to over 20,000 smallholders in the target countries.
Technical support for local seed companies will ensure the seed is commercially multiplied, treated, and available for purchase through a vast network of agricultural input retailers for smallholder farmer customers.
AATF will work with partner seed companies to promote StrigAwayTM, including managing a discount programme for select agro-dealers, offering promotional seed packs to farmers, and leading a campaign to increase the understanding of the product.