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The golden Grain After a long-term and sustained strategic research effort at the CIMMYT headquarters in Mexico, researchers arrived at a new breeding method that promised considerable yield gains under drought and low soil fertility conditions.

Africa: Where research copes with rain and drought. Part 2 of a documentary on international human development project cooperation. Running time 26 minutes.

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To develop maize strains that better tolerate drought and low soil fertility conditions has been a dream of CIMMYT researchers since the seventies. In 1996, a new breeding method was ready to be tested in one of the toughest environments in the world - Southern Africa.


Southern Africa has one of the most variable rainfall patterns in the world. Soil fertility is often poor, particularly as many farmers cannot afford to purchase costly fertilizers or do not have cattle that could provide them with manure. Maize is the most important staple food in this region.

Dr. Marianne Banziger is the project coordinator of the Southern African Drought and Low Soil Fertility Project, the project that carries hopes of researchers and farmers alike.

When the Drought and Low Soil Fertility Project started in 1996, many people thought that it would not be possible to find maize cultivars with significantly higher yields under drought or nitrogen stress.

Today, the project has produced new varieties with 30 to 50 % more yield under stress conditions -
conditions that are typical for resource-poor farmers in this region.

This has only been possible because Marianne and her colleagues have been able to use such a wide genetic variability.