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New maize varieties keeping Kenyan inmates fed

July 3, 2011

The Government of Kenya Prison in Machakos, Kenya, is not your average prison. Here, the inmates have their food security in their hands—quite literally. This is because they work the prison farm, which grows, among other food crops, three new CIMMYT maize varieties.

The prison is situated in a droughtprone area and with 1,000 inmates there at any one time, the prison management needs all the help it can get to feed its inmates. “We need 5 bags of maize daily—for the three meals—for all the inmates.

These new varieties give good yields even when rain is scarce,” says Paul Mukiti, the prison farm manager.

He refers to KDV1, KDV4 and KH500-21A—drought tolerant maize varieties developed by CIMMYT and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), marketed by Dryland Seeds Ltd in eastern Kenya.

The prisoners till the maize fields planted with these varieties under the watchful eye of Mukiti and their wardens.

It all began when Dryland Seeds contacted Mukiti to grow KDV1 and KDV4 on his personal farmland. Impressed by their performance and business potential, Mukiti convinced his superiors to allow him try the grain varieties on the prison farm. Mukiti and his men grew KDV1 in April 2010 and KH500-21A in October of the same year.

“KH-500 needs more rain and takes longer but gives very good yields and that’s why we grew it in October,” says Mukiti. Last year, the prison’s maize farm yielded 170 bags of the two varieties. The prison had enough maize to feed the inmates and a surplus which it sold for extra income.

“This maize has helped us to save a lot of money which we would have been using to buy maize for the inmates,” says Mukiti. Currently, a 90-kilogram bag is retailing at KSh 2,700 (USD 30) and the prison would have spent at least  KSh 13,500 (USD 150) per day to feed the prisoners.  Last April, Mukiti and his men planted three acres to KDV 1 and two acres to KDV 4 and in June the crop was doing well, despite the prevailing drought. Mukiti is thankful for the new seed and confidently awaiting next month’s harvest.


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