Women farmers benefit from improved maize varieties

A group of women farmers from Belhara village, Dhankuta district, in the mid-hills of Nepal, including Bishnu Maya (right) and her family and neighbors. Maize is the staple food in the region, but these women, like many farmers in the region, always used to struggle to grow enough maize to last the year, as the traditional varieties have only one small ear per plant and are prone to lodging (i.e., falling over).

The women’s lives began to change when they were invited to take part in participatory evaluations of improved maize varieties developed for the mid-hills region. The project was part of the Hill Maize Research Program (HMRP), a long-term collaboration between CIMMYT, the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), and other partners. The project focused on women farmers and other disadvantaged groups, testing and promoting technologies that could be implemented by the farmers themselves. Participating farmers have observed 20-50% higher grain yields with the new varieties. “Now I have enough food and can sell some surplus to pay for my children’s education,” says Maya.

According to a report released in 2010, more than two decades of joint efforts between researchers from Nepal and CIMMYT have helped boost the country’s maize yields 36% and those of wheat by 85%. As a result, farmers even in the country’s remote, mid-hill mountain areas have more food and brighter futures.

Photo credit: D. Mowbray/CIMMYT.

For more on the HMRP and CIMMYT’s relationship with Nepal, see the following:
2010 e-news, “Nepal-CIMMYT partnerships reach the unreached”: http://www.cimmyt.org/en/about-us/media-resources/newsletter/869-nepal-cimmyt-partnerships-reach-the-unreachable.
2006 e-news, “People of the Clouds”: http://www.cimmyt.org/en/about-us/media-resources/newsletter/254-people-of-the-clouds.
Nepal-related stories on CIMMYT’s blog: http://blog.cimmyt.org/?s=nepal.

Bishnu Maya appears as one of three women discussing their lives as maize farmers on the CIMMYT video “Maiz