A former IPM IL graduate student, Godfrey Asea, is working to improve Uganda’s maize production systems and earning international recognition in the process.
After receiving an M.S. at Makerere University and a Ph.D. at The Ohio State University in Plant Breeding, both degrees funded through the IPM IL, Asea returned to Uganda in 2005 to begin work as a maize breeder for the country’s National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO).
“Maize is currently an important staple food and cash crop in Uganda,” Asea explains. “Its production provides employment to traders, millers, exporters, and transporters, making it an important crop for generating income. Most of it is produced by small-scale farmers, and therefore improving maize productivity directly impacts on improved livelihoods and food security.”
Asea’s important work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Since 2008, Asea and his team have won two international awards in honor of their maize research through the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa Initiative, a program run by CIMMYT (the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, and others. In 2008, his team won the Maize Technology Development and Dissemination Award for their achievements in producing improved maize varieties through linkages with the private sector. In February 2012, Asea was presented with the Best Maize Breeder Award from the same program in recognition of developing stress tolerant maize germplasm. NARO also recently recognized Asea individually as the organization’s Outstanding Scientist.
Asea, now head of the cereals research program at NARO’s National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), has maintained a connection with the IPM IL in his profesional life — He finished work with a food security-focused project that ended in April 2012. He is also dedicated to continue working on improving maize production.
“Maize is still planted with low-yielding varieties,” Asea says. “The productivity of some of the earlier released varieties is decreasing due to new challenges — diseases, insect pests, drought, and low soil fertility compounded with high input costs.” He hopes to expand his breeding program at NARO, developing new varieties to combat the evolving challenges faced by maize growers in Uganda.