MAPUTO, Mozambique’s Institute of Agricultural Research (IIAM) is harvesting its first crop of genetically modified maize (GM maize), which has been grown in a test field at the ChokwA research station in the southern province of Gaza.

The GM maize was planted with the aim of assisting the productive sector with drought-resistant and insect0tolerant seeds should the results be positive. The tests are taking place in an area of about 0.25 hectares, using 14 varieties of GM maize.

According to media reports here, pests are one of the main factors which cyclically contribute to low production and productivity of maize and one of the major concerns for both domestic and peasant farmers, particularly for those with limited financial resources to buy pesticides.

In a second trial, which is expected to be sown later this year, drought varieties of maize will be tested. Drought-resistance is one of the key factors for the success of maize production in Mozambique, because of the impact of climate change which is already being felt in the country and the whole southern Africa region, with a huge negative impact for the agricultural sector.

The research on GM maize is being conducted under the aegis of IIAM, a governmental institution responsible for the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, which includes Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda through their own agricultural research institutes.

“In this first phase we did tests to evaluate resistance to insects and we have been monitoring them over the past months, from the sowing done in February until now,” says Pedro Fato, a maize researcher at IIAM.