Private foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sown a seed of $26.4 million in East Africa to support maize farming in the region. The aid comes as beacon of hope to maize farmers in Tanzania as well as the regional cultivators, in such a moment when they needed it. Maize farmers have been hit by a bevy of challenges which the Governments have also been left scratching their heads in looking for solutions to the problems affecting the cash crop.
In recent years, prolonged drought have raised concerns over food insecurity with Governments seeking external aid but not sufficiently benefiting from it. In East Africa, Kenya had to borrow maize from neighbouring countries to feed its people. Uganda was generous enough but then proved to be a short term deal. Maize flour prices shot up lowering the customer purchasing power. The ripple effect led to the downturn of the economy.
The fund by the Gates Foundation will go into making insect-resistant and drought-tolerant seeds to curb the food insecurity saga. The Fall Armyworm saga has derailed most economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the insect causing lots of damages to different types of crops. Its resistant and appetite to consume more and more has worried the performance of the agricultural sector which is the backbone of many countries in the region.
With the new hybrid seeds, farmers could have a sigh of relief and worry less on the outcome of their farming practices. Having endured hard times with losses and droughts, it could a be a time for a different narrative. Maize farming is a major economic activity in East Africa and its role in the states is pivotal. The crop feeds millions of citizens and is a livelihood to many farmers. It is a foreign exchange earner though not with much economic magnet as tea and coffee.
80% of the crop in Tanzania is produced by small-scale farmers, showing its significant in the country. The hybrid seeds have the capacity to boost the yields but could prove costly to the farmers. Climate change and inadequate rainfall have hindered the progress of maize farmers but the new seeds could offer great help to the cultivators.
Tanzania, being the largest producer of maize in East Africa was ranked among top 25 best maize producers globally. There’s need of granaries to store the crop lest they go to waste. The surplus can be stored for future consumption of exported to generate revenue for the Government of Tanzania. There is a lot of potential in the sector and with the help of other investors viewing the challenges as business investment opportunities, they can push the sector up front.
More production in the commodity will result in job creation for the youth.