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UKULIMA FARM

Agriculture is the backbone of many economies around the world, and nowhere is that more true than on the African continent. On average, 70 percent of the African population relies on agriculture for their livelihood, and it is a sector in crisis. Food production has not kept pace with population growth and farm productivity continues to decrease. Maize is a crucial staple crop to more than 300 million people in Africa, most of whom are smallholder farmers. Most African farmers have limited access to improved seed varieties for increased crop yields. To address this situation, the Nature Conservation Trust, established by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and together with the Foundation, is developing effective partnerships with four key organizations: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Pennsylvania State University and the Rodale Institute.
These organizations draw on science and experience to help increase food security by strengthening the maize seed sector along with other staple crops.

Development of Ukulima Farm
Partner: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, CIMMYT)
Location: South Africa
Beneficiaries: TBD
Funding: $27,470
Timeline: September 2009 to September 2010

CIMMYT first produced maize seed on the Ukulima Farm in 2008. This initial venture proved to be a successful and beneficial opportunity for scaling-up production of drought-tolerant maize varieties. Over 24 metric tons of both open pollinated and hybrid seed were produced for distribution to partners for further multiplication and dissemination to smallholder farmers. In 2009, CIMMYT expanded production on Ukulima, with the objective of providing emerging sub-Saharan African seed companies and community-based seed production groups with larger quantities of maize seed for more rapid scale-up of new maize varieties, all of which are geared toward smallholder farmers. Increasing the success rate of new local seed companies will ultimately provide for a more diverse maize seed industry with a wider reach to smallholder farmers.

Basic production for 2009 started in September, with seed plots on three center pivots which encompass 66 hectares (163 acres) and will produce 12 seed lots of basic new drought-tolerant maize hybrids. These will be provided to seed companies and NGO’s in Africa for further multiplications and dissemination to smallholder farmers.

Development of Ukulima Farm
Partner: Pennsylvania State University
Location: South Africa
Beneficiaries: TBD
Funding: $1,425,596
Timeline: May 2009 to May 2014

Pennsylvania State University (PSU) is developing a portion of the Ukulima farm as their research platform for generations of new crop varieties and new cropping systems adapted to the stressful soils of eastern and southern Africa. The goal is to identify the rooting traits for the performance of superior genotypes. It will test and evaluate maize and common bean varieties to develop root systems that better maintain yields in droughty and low-fertility soils. PSU will also test and evaluate integrated crop management systems combining stress tolerant genotypes and soil conservation to enhance productivity and fertility using local inputs. Regional collaboration among agricultural researchers is also a high priority.

Development of Ukulima Farm
Partner: Rodale Institute
Location: South Africa
Beneficiaries: TBD
Funding: $1,074,064
Timeline: October 2009 to October 2014

There are three elements to Rodale Institute’s project: field trial research, stakeholder advisory panel, and an educational and outreach program. The field trial research will demonstrate three African farming systems’ agronomic and ecological functions: testing cover crop systems in a variety of situations without synthetic inputs; testing cover crops with a pasture entry point; and testing with inorganic nitrogen and herbicide in a no-till system.

Rodale plans to use data gathered from this project to develop appropriate cover cropping, intercropping, and combination cropping systems and to identify how to increase soil fertility and replace dependence on purchased (typically) synthetic inputs in sub-Saharan Africa. Stakeholder advisory panels will be formed to complement, guide, and improve the field research component of the Ukulima Farming Systems Project. The third component of Rodale’s Ukulima Farming Systems Project will be the development of education and outreach materials and programs to extend the impact of research findings beyond the narrow circles of scientific journals and local communities. The materials and programs will be developed throughout the project’s initial 5-year plan.

Development of Ukulima Farm
Partner: The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Location: South Africa
Beneficiaries: TBD
Funding: $186,960
Timeline: October 2009 to October 2011

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will conduct a program for field testing of crops and crop improvements important to Africa. The crops will include cassava, sorghum, cowpea, soybeans and others. GM and non-GM plants will be evaluated for improvements in disease resistance, insect resistance, drought tolerance and nutrition. The program provides the Danforth Center and its partners an opportunity for early evaluation of crop performance in an African location prior to further development at locations with other African collaborators. The two-year plan calls for testing of processes and plant evaluation in the first phase before formal tests of GM and non-GM plants are undertaken. The plan involves the development of supporting facilities for greenhouse propagation of plants and laboratory support for analysis of trial results. The overall goal of the program is to assist and accelerate the introduction of new developments in crop improvement that can lead to increases in productivity and nutrition, ultimately improving human health.