Behind the Seeds of WEMA

By Billy Brennan

Corporate Engagement

Last year, we shared the story of Bertha Otor, a resourceful Kenyan farmer working to improve her harvest in order to provide for her family. Bertha was one of the first farmers to plant DroughtTEGO, a drought-tolerant hybrid corn (or maize) seed made available through the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) partnership. Despite some challenging conditions, the first harvest was very promising and word of the seed’s performance spread through the community.

A year later, Bertha is continuing to see positive results and has increased the area with maize on her farm. “I am still planting DroughtTEGO and it’s still doing well,” she said. “Last season I planted a half an acre and harvested seven bags (of maize) weighing 90 kilograms each. This season I have planted three-quarters of an acre.”

The average small farm in Kenya is about six acres, so every bit counts. Bertha tries to grow enough not only to feed her family, but to sell the surplus to pay for her children’s education and other expenses. Maintaining good harvests is just one of the challenges she faces.

“In terms of food security, my family is doing well because the harvests are good. However, I’m unable to get good prices for the surplus due to an influx of maize from Uganda, which reduced the price of maize drastically last season. I’m paying school fees for four children in high school and two in college and it’s becoming difficult to raise this from the farm.”

To make her small operation more viable, Bertha is considering a variety of improvements. “I want to increase the use of organic manure and also try to control striga (weeds) in parts of my farm to enable me to produce more maize,” she said. “I’m also diversifying to other sectors including beekeeping, intensive poultry and dairy.”

For a closer look into Bertha’s farm, her family, and the first harvest of WEMA’s DroughtTEGO, check out this video:

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