Insect resistant maize for Africa (IRMA) project

The Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) Project was publicly launched on March 3 2000 with the convening of a Stakeholders Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. About seventy six people, representing different stakeholder groups - including fanners' associations, womens' groups, religious organizations, seed producers, regulatory agencies, NGOs, the media, and others - were in attendance. Representatives of the project collaborators, CIMMYT and the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), as well as the primary donor, the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, were also on hand. The project is aimed at producing maize that is both adapted to various Kenyan agroecological zones and is resistant to key insect pests, primarily stem borers. Both conventional and novel sources of resistance will be examined for their effectiveness against the borers, which incur losses ranging from 15 to 45 percent, depending on the region. Transgenic maize containing Bacillus thuringenesis (Bt) is a focal point of the project, prompting project organizers to emphasize public involvement and awareness through events such as the Stakeholders Meeting. The specific objectives of the Stakeholders Meeting were to. Introduce the IRMA project to stakeholders. Create awareness on the economic importance of stem borers in Kenyan agriculture. Create awareness on the control options for stem borers, including conventional and novel approaches like the Bt-gene technology. Solicit responses from stakeholders on the need and processes of developing insect resistant maize for Kenya. The session was chaired by the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, and Director of Agriculture Prof. Wilfred Mwangi, and was officially opened by the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Christopher M. Obure. Dr. Cyrus Ndiritu, Director of KARI and an outspoken proponent for biotechnology and genetic engineering for developing countries, provided some general remarks on the project, while CIMMYT IRMA Project Coordinator Dr. Stephen Mugo gave a more detailed account. A letter on CIMMYT's role in the project from Director General, Prof. Timothy Reeves was read by Dr. David Hoisington, and Dr. Klaus Leisinger gave a short speech on the role of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development. Following the opening, the stakeholders readily engaged the expert panel in the question and answer period Because of their intense involvement, the session ran well over its allotted time and was extended to accommodate additional questions and comments. The stakeholders expressed the need to incorporate sound management strategies and to follow the national regulations strictly during introduction and testing of Bt genes in the country. The view shared by almost all was that we can only evaluate Bt genes if they are in the country. Importantly, Bt maize was viewed as having a high potential for closing the wide and increasing food deficit in Kenya. Media coverage of both the Stakeholders Meeting and the preceding Africa Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) workshop (sponsored by CIMMYT and the Rockefeller Foundation) was extensive and generally positive.

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Bibliographic Details
Main Authors: Mugo, S.N., Poland, D., De Groote, H., Hoisington, D.A.
Format: Conference Proceedings biblioteca
Published: KARI 2000
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