By Natalie Rosenbloom, vice president of sustainability and partnerships at Monsanto. This post is part of a series produced by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its fifth Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington, D.C., which will be held on May 22.
As a mother, nothing is more important to me than the health and safety of my children. I believe that no matter where we come from, no matter what our means, every mother around the world shares a common bond: the need to provide our children with nutritious food.
Fulfilling this fundamental need can bring different challenges in different parts of the world. In developed countries, it can often boil down to affordability, having the means to provide healthy, well-rounded meals. In developing countries like those in Sub-Saharan Africa, it can all depend on adequate rainfall for women farmers tending small crops.
The vast majority of farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are women, mothers tending crops on small areas of land to provide for their families in the months ahead. About 90 percent of these farmers depend solely on rainfall to water their crops. A period of drought can mean the difference between having enough food for their children or not.
Over the past seven years, a team of public and private organizations have worked together to help farmers in Africa better manage drought and adapt to climate change. The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) program is led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a nonprofit organization of people dedicated to providing better tools for African farmers to fight hunger and child malnutrition. AATF works in collaboration with scientists of five governments in Africa, the public research institution CIMMYT and Monsanto, backed by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and USAID. Together, the partnership is developing maize (corn) seed that uses water more efficiently and resists insect pests.
We are excited that the initial results from the first WEMA crop are promising, with food production more than doubling that of traditional seed.
We sent a video crew to Africa to capture the first harvest, and to interview some of the Kenyan farmers who planted the first seed. To me, Bertha and Victor Otor demonstrate the tenacity and focus on family that I see and admire in many farmers around the world. I was struck by the drive they share with most parents. They’re working to not only provide for their children’s basic needs, but to improve their lives. A good crop not only provides their daily meals but helps to ensure their children can continue their education.
I’m also struck by the power of collaboration and innovation to help families like the Otors succeed in this noble mission. The challenge of feeding a growing population while protecting natural resources is very complex and will require extensive collaboration between civil society and the private sector. With partnerships like WEMA, we can make a tremendous difference in millions of lives.
I encourage you to view this video to learn more about the Otor family and their experience with WEMA seed, and to learn more about the WEMA program. I hope you’ll share my excitement about the potential this program has to improve lives.