There have been numerous episodes of widespread adoption of improved seed and long-term achievements in the development of the maize seed industry in Sub-Saharan Africa. This summary takes a circumspect view of technical change in maize production. Adoption of improved seed has continued to rise gradually, now representing an estimated 44 percent of maize area in Eastern and Southern Africa (outside South Africa), and 60 percent of maize area in West and Central Africa. Use of fertilizer and restorative crop management practices remains relatively low and inefficient. An array of extension models has been tested and a combination of approaches will be needed to reach maize producers in heterogeneous agricultural environments. Yield growth overall has been 1 percent over the past half-century, although this figure masks the high variability in maize yields, as well as improvements in resistance to disease and abiotic pressures that would have caused yield decline in the absence of maize breeding progress. The authors argue that conducive policies are equally, if not more, important for maize productivity in the region than the development of new technology and techniques. Currently popular, voucher-based subsidies can "crowd out" the private sector and could be fiscally unsustainable.
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