The biggest criticism today about research in the country is its failure to properly connect with the users, be they ordinary people, enterprises or institutions in their various endeavours to improve their way of doing things.
We say so conscious that societies by their very elementary nature are continually striving to do better today that which they did well yesterday.
Therein lies the essence of research which can be defined as the search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, with an open mind, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method.
The primary purpose for basic research (as opposed to applied research) is discovering, interpreting, and the development of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge.
We revisit this area aware that the government has put more emphasis on research, even setting a budget for it.
From 2006/07 the government has set aside an average of 20bn/- per year for research, with the amount being raised to 30bn/- in the 2010/2011 financial year.
What we need to ask is whether we are seeing any tangible results from the expenditure, such as improving the way various groups carry out their activities.
One example where research is sorely needed is in solving intermittent food shortages in our region. Every second or third year the country finds itself with a deficit.
That is why we need focused research on crops that withstand extreme weather variations, working on ways to improve not only production, but harvesting, processing, storage and marketing as Prime Minsiter Mizengo Pinda has said.
We are encouraged that the International Institution for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) which Prof Bruce Coulman, chair of the Board of Trustees of IITA says has a long history of contributing to poverty reduction and food security on the African continent is working to improve cassava production in the country.
The crop is the second most important staple after maize in the country, hence the need to find ways of raising its output. Scientists are developing high yielding and disease resistant varieties in a bid to increase the crop’s productivity.
IITA working in partnership with national research institutions, universities, the private sector and the civil society is putting greater focus on cassava an essential staple that could enhance food security and contribute immensely to poverty eradication in the country, according to Nteranya Sanginga, the institution’s Director General.
Premier Pinda laying the foundation stone for the IITA’s modern science building in Dar es Salaam last week said as much.
“Research results indicate a big shift in cassava production in the country and the yield has increased from 10 tonnes per hectare to 20, which means there is improved agricultural production and processing,” said Pinda.
Small farmers need to be directly linked to the research findings to improve yield and scoop the benefits. What is probably not known to many Tanzanians is that cassava flour could also easily substitute wheat in baking bread. Nigeria is already mixing the flour with that of wheat to make bread.
What many Tanzanians may also not know is that it has global demand with a number of countries seeking increased supplies for a variety of commercial uses.