The US$100,000 project funded by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and implemented by International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) was launched last month (7 July) in Kenya.
“It is important to have a facility that will help breeding programmes to produce and store large quantities of valuable seeds with no loss in quality.”
Martin Kropff, CIMMYT
Martin Kropff, director-general of Mexico-headquartered CIMMYT, said at the launch that diseases, insect-pests and climatic stresses including drought, and low soil fertility are reducing maize production, thus negatively impacting on the livelihood of maize smallholders in Africa.
“It is important to have a facility that will help breeding programmes to produce and store large quantities of valuable seeds with no loss in quality,” says Kropff. “This cold room will help improve effectiveness and efficiency of our breeding work in Kenya and Africa.”
Eliud Kireger, director-general of KALRO, says that agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy and needs a strong seed system to enable breeders develop and disseminate improved seed varieties for farming and improved livelihoods.
“This new facility will boost the maize breeding work done by both KALRO and CIMMYT at the Kiboko station, Makueni county in Kenya, which serves as a major hub for maize breeding in Africa and expedite movement of improved maize germplasm to national partners and seed companies across Africa and beyond,” he adds.
Kireger explains that cold rooms function like large-scale refrigerators and preserve seeds by maintaining low temperatures, thereby impeding environmental or biotic factors such as pathogens and insects from affecting seed viability for long periods. “For research work, seeds need to be stored between six months and ten years for future use,” says Kireger. ”This requires high level of preservation and safety to enable breeders to work with more diverse materials, develop new maize germplasm, and store this effectively for further use,” .
Akomian Fortuné Azihou, a lecturer at the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences at Benin-based University of Abomey-Calavi, tells SciDev.Net the facility is important for the entire Africa that depends on maize as a staple food.
But Azihou calls on farmers and researchers to work together to improve maize varieties on the continent for better nutrition and food security in Africa.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.