High yielding varieties of maize have been widely adopted in Zimbabwe. Although germplasm from the CGIAR system was used in the development of these hybrid maize varieties, further research and dissemination activities involved organisations in both private and public sectors. Further, while adoption of earlier hybrids was widespread in 1985, more than 85% of smallholder maize area was planted with hybrid maize and production doubled over the period 1979-1985 rural poverty and child malnutrition remain endemic. Some argue that the gains from these hybrids have been concentrated on a few agro-climatic areas and that there has been little impact on child nutritional status. This has implications for policy debates not only about raising nutritional status within Zimbabwe but also for the CGIAR system, given its mandate to link improvements in agricultural technology to better nutrition.
This study, which forms part of a larger effort to explore the impact of agricultural research on poverty reduction (IFPRI, 2000), probed the relationship between high-yielding hybrid varieties of maize and the reduction of poverty by looking at two communities of resettlement farmers, comparing long-term surveys of their situation with detailed knowledge of selected cases to obtain the perspectives of the farmers and their families. The study examines the diffusion and impact of hybrid maize in selected resettlement areas of rural Zimbabwe, paying particular attention to varieties made widely available from the mid-1990s onwards.
Drawing on the Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) Framework, we address three questions:
1. What factors have affected the diffusion of new maize hybrids in the 1990s?
2. How did the introduction of maize hybrids influence the development of asset bases, livelihood strategies and livelihood outcomes?
3. What is the relationship between these asset bases, livelihood strategies and nutrition outcomes?
This paper summarizes our findings. It begins with a description of the research methods used and the localities in which primary data collection were situated. It then provides an overview of the analysis of these questions. The final section summarizes our results, discusses methodological issues and comments on future directions for hybrid maize in Zimbabwe. The full report for this case study (Bourdillon et al., 2002) provides considerably more detail on the issues and findings raised here.