Gates reassures support for maize, cassava projects

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Studies on maize and cassava cultivation projects are set to make progress, thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledge to continue supporting them.

The support for the two projects as well as other scientific researches under the Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), were made by American billionaire Mr Bill Gates, during talks at the State House with President Jakaya Kikwete on Wednesday.

According to the COSTECH Director for Information and Documentation, Dr Raphael Mmasi, Mr Gates had reaffirmed his support, to ensure that the two staples for most of Africa, is available throughout the year.

Lately, some parts of Tanzania have been hit by drought, making traditional farming methods a risk to millions of small farmers whose agriculture relies on rain.

''We are doing well with Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) and Bio Cassava Plus projects which are part of the programmes Mr Gates has pledged to extend his support,'' he said.

Bio Cassava Plus aims to reduce malnutrition by delivering more nutritious, high yielding and marketable cassava.

WEMA is developing drought-tolerant African maize varieties for Sub-Saharan Africa, implemented also in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and Uganda.

Dr Mmasi said COSTECH will also get about 100bn/- for scientific researches in the coming financial year.

Cassava and maize are staples for more than 550 million people in Africa especially Sub-Sahara.

The first WEMA varieties developed through conventional breeding techniques and marker-assisted breeding could be available within the next four to five years.

The timelines for the genetically modified drought-tolerant maize varieties depend on research and development results and regulatory approvals in each of the WEMA countries. Farmers could have access to these drought-tolerant maize varieties in seven to eight years.

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