A case study of peasants’ adaptation to hybrid maize in semi-arid Tanzania

This paper focuses on how the introduction of hybrid maize has affected adaptational processes within local farming systems in the Njombe District in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. It is based on research conducted in 1988. The area experiences a considerable success in the application of hybrid maize, and agricultural production has increased considerably. However, from a local farmer’s point of view local varieties of maize are preferable, and can be proven superior because of their adaptiveness to local circumstances. Local composite maize is characterized by early maturity; sustainability under conditions of unstable rainfall patterns; resistance against pests; the ability to yield when cultivated in shifting cultivation, without fertilization. Furthermore, traditional maize is well suited to local tastes for porridge and beer, the main local usages of maize. The hybrid varieties have a lower score on all these scales. The prime reason for adopting hybrid seeds is that they can out-yield the local varieties by two to four times. Three factors contributed to the dramatic expansion of maize production as a cash crop: high producer prices for maize; increased yields through the combined use of hybrid maize, fertilizers and pesticides; and villagization. Negative aspects of peasant adoption of hybrid maize include the insecure supply of seed, the lower drought tolerance of hybrid maize compared with local composites, and soil degradation through a decrease of organic matter in the soil. Bibliogr., notes.

Title: A case study of peasants’ adaptation to hybrid maize in semi-arid Tanzania
Author: Friis-Hansen, E.
Book title: Adaptive strategies in African arid lands
Year: 1990
Pages: 147-161
Language: English
Geographic term: Tanzania
Subject: maize
Abstract: This paper focuses on how the introduction of hybrid maize has affected adaptational processes within local farming systems in the Njombe District in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. It is based on research conducted in 1988. The area experiences a considerable success in the application of hybrid maize, and agricultural production has increased considerably. However, from a local farmer’s point of view local varieties of maize are preferable, and can be proven superior because of their adaptiveness to local circumstances. Local composite maize is characterized by early maturity; sustainability under conditions of unstable rainfall patterns; resistance against pests; the ability to yield when cultivated in shifting cultivation, without fertilization. Furthermore, traditional maize is well suited to local tastes for porridge and beer, the main local usages of maize. The hybrid varieties have a lower score on all these scales. The prime reason for adopting hybrid seeds is that they can out-yield the local varieties by two to four times. Three factors contributed to the dramatic expansion of maize production as a cash crop: high producer prices for maize; increased yields through the combined use of hybrid maize, fertilizers and pesticides; and villagization. Negative aspects of peasant adoption of hybrid maize include the insecure supply of seed, the lower drought tolerance of hybrid maize compared with local composites, and soil degradation through a decrease of organic matter in the soil. Bibliogr., notes.