Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Exploration of Farmers' Preferences and Perceptions of Maize Varieties: Implications on Development and Adoption of Quality Protein Maize (QPM) Varieties in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Exploration of Farmers' Preferences and Perceptions of Maize Varieties: Implications on Development and Adoption of Quality Protein Maize (QPM) Varieties in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

Abstract

Quality protein maize (QPM) technology is relatively new in Zimbabwe and farmer awareness of QPM was low. Participation of smallholder farmers in the development of QPM breeding objectives and dissemination strategies was solicited through participatory rural appraisal (PRA) techniques. Seventy two farmers participated; the farmers were involved in the Mother Baby Trial (MBT) projects in four selected villages from three districts of Zimbabwe. Data collection techniques included work-sharing, village or resource mapping, Venn diagramming, semi structured interviewing, matrix scoring and ranking and pairwise ranking. The results suggested that protein malnutrition was prevalent in the districts. Maize was the most important crop and farmers grew three types of maize, namely landrace ("Hickory King"), open pollinated varieties (OPV) and hybrid varieties all representing normal endosperm maize. Hybrids were dominant and produced mainly for sale, while "Hickory King", although not supported by the formal seed system, continued to be produced for home consumption because of its superior taste, white kernel color, large kernel size, high kernel density, kernel hardness, and perceived weevil-resistance. Lateness and foliar disease susceptibility were the disadvantages of Hickory King. The ideal maize variety should be early-maturing, with a high yield potential, drought tolerant, foliar disease resistant and stem borer tolerant. For any QPM variety to be acceptable, farmers expected it to combine the agronomic attributes of hybrids and the grain quality characteristics of "Hickory King", an "heirloom" variety. To effectively promote the adoption of QPM, the Agricultural Research and Extension (AREX) arm of government was the farmers' choice compared to other modes of information dissemination which were radio, television, newspaper, church NGO and councillor.

Keywords: Quality Protein Maize (QPM), Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), heirloom variety, Hickory King, QPM adoption

1. Introduction

1.1 Low Levels of QPM Adoption

As in many countries in southern Africa, maize is a staple food crop in Zimbabwe (Rusike, 1998). Nearly all the varieties cultivated are normal endosperm maize and, hence, deficient in two essential amino acids, lysine and tryptophan. With the development of quality protein maize (QPM) varieties, there is hope for the provision of an affordable source of balanced protein to millions of inhabitants of the maize growing regions (Graham, Lembcke, & Morales, 1990; Vasal, 2002). However, the adoption of QPM still remains low (Atlin et al., 2011) despite the recent demonstration of the effectiveness of QPM in improving the nutritional status of children at the village level by Gunaratna, Groote, Nestel, Pixley and McCabe (2010). The dissemination and adoption of QPM is still lagging behind normal endosperm maize especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa where it is needed most. In sub Saharan Africa, total maize area is estimated at 30 million hectares (FAOSTAT, 2012), and only less than 1% (or 200 000 hectares) was estimated to be under QPM (Krivanek, De Groote, Gunaratna, Diallo, & Friesen, 2007) yet the requisite agronomic practices of both normal endosperm maize and QPM are alike (Vasal, 2001) and there is no evidence of differences in agronomic performance between QPM and non-QPM genotypes under both moisture stressed and non-stressed test-environments (Atlin et al., 2011).

1.2 Widespread Malnutrition

Anthropometric measures of morbidity, wasting away, stunting and underweight in children aged zero to five years classified Zimbabwe as one of the countries with a high risk of malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa yet QPM varieties adoption is still in the early stage. Protein-energy malnutrition is one of the factors contributing to the undesirable anthropometric measures and in Zimbabwe 19.9% of the children were found to be underweight, 39.9% stunted, and 5% wasted and only 27. …

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