Drought-tolerant maize for Africa (DTMA)Sub-Saharan Africa


In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA),”maize is life” due to its importance for food security and economic well-being. But already, around 40% of Africa’s maize-growing areas face occasional drought stress, resulting in yield losses of 10–25%. And around25 % of the maize crop suffers from frequent drought, with losses of up to half the harvest. To reduce vulnerability and improve food security, the Drought-tolerant maize for Africa (DTMA) project released 160 drought-tolerant maize varieties between 2007 and 2013. These have been tested in both research facilities and on farmers’ fields, and disseminated to farmers in 13 African countries through national agricultural research systems and private seed companies. Yields of the new varieties are superior to those of currently available commercial maize varieties under both stress and optimum growing conditions. CIMMYT is also beginning to work with partners in Zimbabwe to initiate testing for drought and heat-tolerant maize varieties (Sipalla and Cairns 2015). 1

Relationship to CSA

Given how widely maize is grown in SSA and the extent to which droughts occur, drought-tolerant maize varieties make a major contribution to short term adaptation through climate risk management. In many parts of SSA, climate change projections suggest increased frequency of drought. As the world continues warming, the successful identification and release of maize varieties with greater heat tolerance will become an increasingly important climate risk management adaptation mechanism.

Impacts and lessons learned

An ex-ante assessment study by La Rovere et al. (2010) 2 on the potential impacts of the DTMA project indicates (with optimistic adoption rates and yield increases of 10-34% over non drought-tolerant varieties) that by 2016 the DTMA project could lead to a cumulative economic benefit of nearly USD 0.9 billion to farmers and consumers. In addition, they estimate that drought-tolerant maize could assist more than 4 million people to escape poverty while improving the livelihoods of many millions more. The on-going success of this initiative has largely depended upon the widespread and sustainable collaborative mechanisms that CIMMYT and IITA have established among a wide range of relevant partners.


CCAFS Big Facts - Drought-tolerant maize boosting food security in 13 African countries: https://ccafs.cgiar.org/bigfacts/#theme=evidence-of-success&subtheme=crops&casestudy=cropsCs2


  • 1

    Sipalla F, Cairns J. 2015. CIMMYT-CCAFS Scientists Identify Maize Varieties That Can Withstand Drought and High Temperatures in Zimbabwe. Nairobi, Kenya: CIMMYT.

    http://dtma.cimmyt.org/index.php/component/content/article/110-news-articles/176-cimmyt-ccafs-scientists-identify-maize-varieties-that-can-withstand-drought-and-high-temperatures-in-zimbabwe This news story covers how CIMMYT-IITA scientists have identified new maize varieties in Zimbabwe capable of resisting high temperatures and drought.
  • 2

    La Rovere R, Kostandini G, Abdoulaye T, Dixon J, Mwangi W, Guo Z, Banziger M. 2010. Potential impact of investments in drought tolerant maize in Africa. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: CIMMYT.

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=vJ3fZu2TZVIC&oi=fnd&pg=PR6&dq=La+Rovere+et+al.+(2010).+Potential+impact+of+investments+in+drought+tolerant+maize+in+Africa.+CIMMYT,+Addis+Ababa,+Ethiopia.+&ots=yDKamQpWdS&sig=q3xGq-5sfRNtU6ISkps64Z80YJA#v=onepage&q&f=false The study evaluates the potential impacts of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project run by CIMMYT and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in 13 countries of eastern, southern and West Africa: Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and Ghana. It describes cumulative economic and poverty-reduction benefits to farmers and consumers in those countries over 2007-16, from higher yields and from diminished season-to-season yield fluctuations, through the adoption by farmers of improved, drought tolerant maize varieties. At the most likely rates of adoption, based on several recent studies and expert advice, drought tolerant maize can generate US$ 0.53 billion from increased maize grain harvests and reduced risk over the study period, assuming conservative yield improvements—that is, a yield advantage over normal, improved maize of 3-20%, depending on the site and seasonal conditions. Assuming more optimistic yield gains—a range of 10-34% over non-drought tolerant improved maize—the economic benefit is nearly US$ 0.88 billion in project countries. Optimistic yields plus full replacement of current improved varieties with drought tolerant ones could help more than 4 million people to escape poverty and many millions more to improve their livelihoods. The most striking economic and poverty benefits will accrue in Nigeria, Kenya, and Malawi, based on the amounts of maize sown in those countries, the importance of maize in inhabitants’ diets and livelihoods, and their historical levels of adoption of improved maize. In comparison, the benefits will be more modest in Angola and Mozambique and moderate in Uganda and Mali. However, even if most DTMA project resources were allocated to the countries where the benefits are highest, the other countries would still benefit from the research spillovers that could be facilitated by crossborder seed market exchanges. Crucial components in this multi-disciplinary study included geographic information system data, data on the probability of failed crop seasons (PFS), yield data from breeders, projected maize adoption rates mainly from seed experts, and poverty data from socioeconomists. The drought tolerant varieties considered are the product of conventional breeding—that is, they are not transgenic. Follow-up research will address potential benefits from such factors as area expansion effects, increased cropping diversity (households can meet their maize requirements from a smaller portion of their land, freeing up space to sow other crops), and increased investment in fertilizer and other improvements, owing to reduced risk. Moreover, if as expected farmers who adopt drought tolerant maize continue to grow it beyond 2016, the returns on investments to this work will become even more significant.

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CCAFS Climate-Smart Agriculture 101

The basics

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an integrative approach to address these interlinked challenges of food security and climate change, that explicitly aims for three objectives:

A. Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, to support equitable increases in farm incomes, food security and development;

B. Adapting and building resilience of agricultural and food security systems to climate change at multiple levels; and

C. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (including crops, livestock and fisheries).

Entry points

Agriculture affects and is affected by climate change in a wide range of ways and there are numerous entry points for initiating CSA programmes or enhancing existing activities. Productivity, mitigation and adaptation actions can take place at different technological, organizational, institutional and political levels. To help you navigate these myriad entry points we have grouped them under three Thematic Areas: (i) CSA practices, (ii) CSA systems approaches, and (iii) Enabling environments for CSA. Each entry point is then described and analysed in terms of productivity, adoption and mitigation potential and is illustrated with cases studies, references and internet links for further information.

Develop a CSA plan

Planning for, implementing and monitoring CSA projects and programmes evolves around issues of understanding the context including identification of major problems/barriers and opportunities related to the focus of the programme; developing and prioritizing solutions and designing plans; implementation; and monitoring and evaluation. Most major development agencies have their own framework for project and programme formulation and management but CCAFS has developed a specific approach for planning, implementing and assessing CSA projects and programme called CSA plan. CSA plan was developed to provide a guide for operationalizing CSA planning, implementation and monitoring at scale. CSA plan consist of four major components: (1) Situation analysis; (2) Targeting and prioritizing; (3) Program support; and (4) Monitoring. evaluation and learning.


To meet the objectives of CSA, such as agricultural development, food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation, a number of potential funding sources are available. For instance, climate finance sources may be used to leverage agriculture finance and mainstream climate change into agricultural investments. This section offers an overview of potential sources of funding for activities in climate-smart agriculture (CSA) at national, regional and international levels and for a number of different potential ‘clients’ including governments, civil society, development organizations and others. Additionally, it includes options to search among a range of funding opportunities according to CSA focus area, sector and financing instrument.

Resource library

CSA Guide provides a short and concise introduction and overview of the multifaceted aspects of climate-smart agriculture. At the same time it offers links to references and key resources that allows for further investigations and understanding of specific topics of interest. In the resource library we have gathered all the references, key resources, terms and questions in one place for a quick overview and easy access that can be used as a part of or independently of the other sections of the website. The resource library is divided into six sections; (1) References – list all publications, links and blogs referred to on the website; (2) Tools – list all the CSA tools presented on the website; (3) Key terms – explains the most important and frequently used terms related to CSA; (4) Frequently asked questions (FAQ) – provides a rapid overview of the most common questions asked on climate-smart agriculture; (5) About – where you can find out more about the purpose and structure of, as well as on the organizations and authors behind the website; (6) Contact.

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