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Maize Not Drought Resistant Enough

Maize has pushed original drought-tolerant crops like millet and sorghum out of the market. A powerful industry brands and packages it as the cornerstone of family life.

But Africa imports around 28 percent of its maize from overseas. Maize never became the long-predicted foundation of an African "green revolution", and climate change is increasingly exposing its limitations as a reliable ever-bountiful crop.

The downside to maize is that it's "highly sensitive to deprivation of water, sunlight and nitrogen," wrote James McCann, an agricultural historian at Boston University. "Even a few days of drought at the time of tasseling [its maturing stage] can ruin a crop. Thus, maize monocultures are extremely vulnerable to environmental shocks."

Maize also has a relatively low nutritional value - unlike the millet and sorghum it displaced. What that means is that in poor households, which cannot afford the vegetable and meat accompaniment, filling your child's belly with maize meal doesn't prevent malnutrition.


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