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MAIZE Impacts

The generation and diffusion of modern maize varieties has been cited as one of the most notable achievements of international agricultural research in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of all the maize varieties grown across the world, half are derived from CIMMYT germplasm. CIMMYT works with local institutions to develop maize which is resistant to drought, diseases and insects. Through international partnerships, improved maize seed is being made available to smallholder farmers throughout the developing world. This is why CIMMYT has joined efforts with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for MAIZE – the Global Alliance for Improving Food Security and the Livelihoods of the Resource-poor in the Developing World.

When poor farmers adopt new varieties, they generally see a significant rise in their yields and incomes. The estimated number of people moved out of poverty in this way has risen through the 1980s to reach a level of more than one million people per year since the mid-1990s. Over half of these impacts can be attributed to international maize research at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Their partnership aims to increase maize productivity in target populations by 33 percent by 2030, reaching 175 million smallholder farm family members by 2030. For these farmers, maize is more than an ingredient, it’s their main source of calories, the food they feed their families, their main source of income and the feed for their livestock – a truly vital component of their daily lives. If we want to address global food security, maize is a critical part of the solution.

Key facts and figures

  • Modern maize varieties represented less than 5 percent of the maize area in the 1970s but accounted for about 60 percent in 2005.
  • According to FAO data, yields increased from as low as 0.88 tons per hectare (t/ha) in 1971 to over 2 t/ha in 2005, with an average growth rate of 2 percent per year; the area of land sown to maize increased by over 3 percent annually over the same period.
  • The estimated number of people moved out of poverty through adoption of new maize varieties rose gradually during the 1980s to reach more than one million per year during the past 10 years.
  • A total of US $308 million was invested in maize research between 1971 and 2005; international maize research accounted for about 66 percent (US$204 million) of this investment.


Source: Independent Science & Partnership Council (ISPC)/Standing Panel on
Impact Assessment (SPIA) Brief 34, 2010

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