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In new hostile climate, drought-tolerant crops, systems needed on unprecedented scale

Last year, droughts devastated staple food crops across the developing world, cutting production by about half in some countries. A stream of reports from Central America, Eastern and Southern Africa as well as the Asia-Pacific region painted a grim picture of suffering and upheaval.

Poor harvests subjected tens of millions to chronic hunger, prompting various governments to declare states of emergency. In Central America, survey results, including some from the US government, cited climate-induced food shortages as the main reason for emigration from drought-hit areas.

Extreme weather, with its appalling consequences, demands an extraordinary response. Redoubled efforts must focus on building resilience into the developing world´s major food systems.

Conservation agriculture and drought-tolerant crops

New technologies from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) suggest how developing countries can work toward a better future.

Drought-tolerant cereals show promise for helping stabilise maize and wheat production. Through many years of conventional plant breeding, researchers have developed more than 160 maize varieties for sub-Saharan Africa that yield 25-30 percent more than farmers’ standard varieties under drought, while performing at least equal to these under normal rainfall.

According to a study in Zimbabwe, farmers growing the drought-tolerant maize harvested up to 600 kilograms more grain per hectare in drought years – enough to feed a family of six for nine months. The improved varieties are already grown on 2.5 million hectares, benefitting around 54 million people.

Read the full text article following the link to SciDevNet. 

Further reading on drought tolerant crops from UNCCD library