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Researchers welcome Sh30bn Gates funding of new maize varieties

Philanthropist Bill Gates. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Philanthropist Bill Gates. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenyan researchers have welcomed a Sh30 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates for development of high yielding maize varieties for the African and Asian continents.

Water Efficient Maize in Africa (Wema) Coordinator Murenga Mwimali said the three-year grant would enable State and private agencies develop region-specific maize varieties.

“We in Kenya, and more so in the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (Kalro) welcome this continued support that shall contribute immensely towards provision of high-yielding disease-resistant maize varieties, higher food production and nutritional security for  improved livelihoods,” said Dr Mwimali.

The Wema coordinator said modern biotechnology tools among smallholder farmers will ease food shortages blamed on recurrent drought, maize lethal necrosis, fall armyworm, heat stress and climate changes.

Africa Union’s Gates Foundation director Haddis Tadesse said more needs to be done to ensure African farmers feed their families as well as produce enough for the market.

During the just ended the One Planet Summit in France,  the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged Sh30 billion starting next year to support agricultural research geared towards helping smallholder farmers access high yielding, drought and disease resistant maize varieties.

The Foundation is targeting about 800 million people who solely rely on agriculture.

This will help peasant farmers sustain production amid increasingly challenging conditions brought about by climate change, including rising temperatures, extreme weather patterns (droughts and floods), diseases, poor soil fertility and attacks from crop pests.