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Gates, Buffet Foundations Grant African Researchers $47M for Maize Advancement

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – African scientists will use funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffett foundations to develop genetic markers for use in a program focused on creating new strains of corn that will have greater resistance to drought.
The Water Efficient Maize for Africa program will receive a total of $47 million to develop corn strains that could help increase yields by 20 percent to 35 percent.
The WEMA program was formed by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a Uganda-based charity, and includes involvement from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.
The AATF said it will work with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, with Monsanto, and with agricultural researchers in participating countries to assess regulatory requirements in the nations in the region.
Corn is the most widely grown staple crop in Africa, the AATF said, and more than 300 million Africans use it as their primary food source.
Mpoko Bokanga, AATF’s executive director, said the partnership fits with the group’s mandate to facilitate public/private partnerships aimed at bringing African farmers the tools they need to increase productivity and income security.
Technologies developed under the AATF program are to be distributed royalty-free to African seed companies and made available to smallholder farmers.