A new variety of maize that will solve the twin problem of drought and destructive insects specifically stemborers and fall armyworm that has caused consistent huge losses in maize production across Africa is being develop across seven countries in Africa.
The maize variety which is being developed under the TELA Maize Project, a public-private partnership led by the Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is currently in the second phase of field trials in Nigeria, – Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
According to prior estimates, the Fall Armyworm could destroy up to 20 million metric tons of maize in Africa each year, enough to feed 100 million people.
In Nigeria, and other countries where the project is being piloted, scientists and breeders are working towards commercialisation of the transgenic drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize varieties to enhance food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Although the technology employed in the development of this variety of maize is new to countries like Nigeria, the project leaders are optimistic that, with proper communication the essence would become clearer to the potential beneficiaries.
According to Prof. Rabiu Adamu, the Principal Investigator for the TELA Maize Project, anti-technology campaigners have misinformed the public about the need and usefulness of using innovative technologies such as genetic engineering to develop new crop varieties to address the numerous challenges farmers are facing daily in their efforts to produce enough food for the Nigerian people.
Consequently, he stressed the need for a good working relationship between scientists and the media, adding that it was good for the media to have a clear understanding of the current technologies deployed in agriculture to enable them present it in an understandable light to the public.
The word ‘TELA’ as derived from the Latin word TUTELA means ‘Protection’. The TELA Maize Project builds on progress made from a decade of excellent breeding work under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project.
In Nigeria, the TELA Maize project led by AATF and the Institute for Agricultural Institute (IAR) has advanced to the second phase, having recorded very promising results from the first phase of the Confined Field.
Prof. Mohmmad Ishiyaku, Executive Director, Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria has called on scientists to aim for clarity when they communicate about their researches as a way of building public confidence.
Speaking during the opening of a three-day media training workshop held recently at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Samaru, Prof Ishiyaku said, “Researchers must be accountable to the public as their research is not for private but for public good and consumption. You must therefore learn to suppress and divorce your emotions from your work by presenting the facts of the research findings for the public to appreciate.”