Fighting Hunger from the Ground Up

Posted by on October 15th, 2015 | 0 Comments »

Mark EdgeBy Mark Edge, Water Efficient Maize for Africa Partnership Lead at Monsanto

Imagine if a lack of rainfall stood between you and your ability to feed your children.

For millions of families around the world, this is a daily reality. And for family farmers from Kansas to Kenya, drought and pests can mean the difference between a bountiful harvest and a meager one that compromises their ability to put food on their tables … and ours.

We can all agree that no child should go to bed hungry. Yet nearly 800 million people today are undernourished, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In fact, malnutrition kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The world’s population will swell to 9.7 billion in just a few decades, and the situation could become more serious.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Improved seeds and better farming techniques can have a huge impact on world hunger while helping to protect the environment. For example, both hybrid and GMO seeds can help farmers raise crops that are more tolerant to drought and pests, thus improving harvests while using water and crop protection products more efficiently. And GMO seeds can enable a farming technique known as conservation tillage that leads to healthier soil and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Nowhere is the need to feed a growing population more profound or pressing than in the arid regions of the African continent. That’s why Monsanto joined with African scientists, research institutions and farmers to create the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project. This multi-stakeholder partnership is improving food security and livelihoods among smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa by combating the impacts of drought and insects on maize (corn) crops, the main source of food for more than 300 million Africans.

African Youth


The WEMA project has made great strides, successfully delivering its first drought tolerant conventional hybrid seed to farmers in Kenya a year ahead of schedule. The first WEMA seed commercial crop harvest was completed in early 2014 and, on average, farmers more than doubled their maize harvests in comparison to previous harvests from open pollinated seed varieties saved year after year.

Of course, Africa is not the only place affected by drought and other obstacles to productive farming. Parts of the western United States, for example, are suffering from prolonged drought conditions. This can impact harvests and increase demand for irrigation, which may not be economically viable for many farmers and puts additional stress on the natural resource base.

And children in Africa aren’t the only ones going hungry. Nearly 50 million people in the United States live in food-insecure households, including almost 16 million children. The sad irony is that food insecurity is higher in rural communities where the majority of crops are grown.

MONS09_1773To help America’s farmers manage drought, Monsanto introduced the agriculture industry’s first-ever GMO drought-tolerant seed corn system in 2013. By 2014, more than 8,000 farmers planted this seed on more than 500,000 acres, primarily in the Western Great Plains. On average, these farmers improved their corn harvests by more than five bushels per acre compared to competitive products.

There’s still a long way to go to ensure a balanced meal for all. But with innovations and collaborative efforts like the ones mentioned here, Monsanto is working hard to be part of the solution.

To find out more about these initiatives and others, check out the Monsanto 2014 Sustainability Report: From the Inside Out.

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