From email@example.com Wed May 24 18:48:20 2000
Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2000 23:10:40 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: AGRICULTURE-AFRICA: Organisation Helps Poor Gain Food Security
Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Organisation Helps Poor Gain Food Security
By Lewis Machipisa, IPS
5 April 2000
HARARE, Apr 5 (IPS) - Food availability in Africa has gone down by
25 percent over the past 30 years but demand will have more than
doubled by 2020, according to an international agricultural
"The other sad side of the story is that while population is
increasing, fertility of soils is decreasing," says Timothy
Reeves, director general of the Mexico-based International Maize
and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).
CIMMYT is an international, non-profit, agricultural research
and training centre dedicated to helping the poor in low-income
It is co-sponsored by the Food And Agricultural Organisation
(FAO), the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The organisation helps in alleviating poverty by increasing the
profitability, productivity, and sustainability of maize and wheat
In Southern African region, for example, this year there will
be a maize deficit of 134,000 tonnes, according to the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) regional early warning unit.
Maize and wheat are among the three most vital of the
developing world's basic foods, providing on average, a quarter of
caloric intake in low-income groups.
According to Reeves, by 2020, net cereal imports of developing
countries will have doubled. He says that although Asia has the
highest population, food production has leapt ahead of population
"But in Africa, food availability per capita has gone down.
Population growth has exceeded increase in food production. Our
biggest challenge is how we can increase the fertility of soils in
more fragile ecologies," Reeves told IPS.
According to CIMMYT, maize seed derived from its research in
global and regional partnerships is sown on more than 13 million
hectares in the developing world and provides farmers with an
average 0.5 tonnes of extra grain per hectare.
"If you look at what's going to happen in developing world and
Africa in particular, the demand for staple cereal food, like
maize will more than double," says Reeves who is in Zimbabwe to
visit one of his organsation's projects.
"At CIMMYT we conduct essential science to meet people's
essential needs for food, for income and for a healthy
environment," says Reeves. "This is the way to enhance food
security for the poor in developing countries".
In southern Africa, maize is a highly valued staple for small-scale,
poor farmers and their families, but drought frequently
threatens or destroys maize harvests.
CIMMYT is working with breeders in the region to generate
locally adapted maize varieties and hybrids that produce more
grain under severe drought stress than the traditional varieties.
"The sort of research we work on is looking at problems that
are particularly appropriate to small farmers. We are looking at
maize which is more drought tolerant with a higher nutritional
value," says Reeves.
The tolerant maize is also bred for higher and more stable
yields on low fertility soils. CIMMYT claims that in first results
from on-station trials in the region, its experimental maize
hybrids out-yielded popular, locally adapted hybrids by up 50
percent under drought stress.
Reeves says governments have to raise their investment in the
agricultural sector in order for them to meet the required demands
in the coming decades.
"When you look at the success of the last 30 years in Asia...
its because there was heavy investment by governments in the
agricultural sector generally but also in agricultural research in
particular whether we meet those targets depends on how much sub-
Saharan Africa governments invest in agriculture," says Reeves.
Water shortages are already having a negative impact on
agriculture, the biggest water user in the world.
CIMMYT takes water problems in many different countries as part
of its research to improve developing world agriculture.
CIMMYT has for years worked on developing agricultural
practices to help farmers cope with diminishing water supplies..
The organisation's researchers have found that planting wheat
on permanent beds improves water use efficiency Up to 30 percent
of water can be saved.
Although water covers 70 percent of the earth's surface, 97
percent of this is saline. Only 2.5 percent is freshwater and
nearly 70 percent of it is locked in icecaps and glaciers.
As the world population grows at the incredible pace of 100
million people a year, the relatively small amount of available
freshwater is fast shrinking in proportion to
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