Consolata Nyaga, a smallholder farmer on the slopes of Mt Kenya, in the district of Embu, prepares her maize plot for planting. She does this all by hand using a hoe, and it is hard work. Her farm, or “garden”, consists of a hectare and a quarter of land, and includes milk cows, coffee, bananas, and beans. However, the most important crop is the half hectare of improved maize she grows every season.
“Let me tell you, if you eat potatoes and cabbages and eat rice, you cannot have energy to dig,” she says. “Yes, maize has got very big energy. You see somebody like myself after 56 years cannot dig unless you eat something good!”
The maize variety Nyaga grows feeds her and gives her the cash to put her 10 children through school. It is based on material from CIMMYT and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), which have been working in collaboration to provide farmers with new improved varieties. These varieties are more drought-tolerant and insect resistant, give higher yields under proper management, and are quality protein maize (QPM), meaning they have enhanced levels of essential amino acids. CIMMYT and KARI work with organizations on the ground to demonstrate the advantages of these varieties. Nyaga and the community group of which she is the treasurer have been quick to adopt the improved materials; her neighbors are also curious about the new maize, and come to field days on her farm to learn about it.
Photo credit: CIMMYT.