I’ve been a farmer for six years, mainly of maize, but also coffee and sweet potatoes. Two years ago, I started using a hybrid maize seed called SAWA, which was developed specifically for drought-like conditions by scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Mexico. It was first donated to me as a sample by Dryland Seed Limited, a local seed company, and now it’s very popular, so a lot of us here buy it ourselves. This hybrid is better than the traditional varieties, no doubt; it’s a better seed and yields a bigger crop. The taste is different too—it’s a little sweeter. We eat a lot of maize in Kenya; it’s our staple food, especially as ugali, a maize flour porridge.
We have two harvest seasons. October to December is the main one, and the minor one is February to April. If you come here in July or August, it is a very bad place to be. It’s so hot. With this hybrid, even when we have small rains, the maize is very good. And they don’t get so affected by the sun. The new variety has fewer diseases, including northern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot, maize streak virus, and maize lethal necrosis, a viral disease that was a big problem for us when it broke out in 2011.
It’s early October and I am clearing the farm right now, and putting in manure from the cows. I am standing by, buying more seeds, and waiting for the rain. The selling price the government sets for maize is still not very good, unfortunately. But I still have more crops than some of my neighbors, who sometimes recycle seeds and don’t have very much at all. With ordinary seeds, you have to take much more care of them for much less product. And none of us can really afford other inputs like fertilizer, so any other ways to make our land more productive is good.
Humans and technology
Money is about to enter a new era of competition
Digital technology is poised to change our relationship with money and, for some countries, the ability to manage their economies.
Deception, exploited workers, and cash handouts: How Worldcoin recruited its first half a million test users
The startup promises a fairly-distributed, cryptocurrency-based universal basic income. So far all it's done is build a biometric database from the bodies of the poor.
House-flipping algorithms are coming to your neighborhood
Despite millions of dollars in losses, iBuying’s failure doesn’t signal the end of tech-led disruption, just a fumbled beginning.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.