Tanzania’s seed multiplication centres have developed 22 new hybrid seed varieties, which promise higher productivity and are reportedly more resistant to drought and diseases.
Addressing journalists over the weekend, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Dr Mohamed Muya said most of the seeds have been developed to cope with effects of changing climatic patterns.
The PS reported that the National Seed Committee has approved the use of the 22 hybrid seed varieties.
The newly developed seeds included varieties of maize, one of sorghum, three of beans, two of cow peas, four of Irish potatoes, two of rice and two varieties of barley.
”…NATA H104 maize variety produces 7 to 9 tonnes of maize per hectare; that is an average of 32 bags of maize per acre…” the official disclosed.
The endorsement of the seed varieties follows recommendations made by the National Variety Release Committee which met last week in Arusha
Apart from being productive, the developed seeds have also proved to be drought and disease resistant. They also reach early maturity, a plus, given the unpredictable weather changes.
The seed varieties have been developed through public assistance, the private research centres of Uyole (Mbeya), Ilonga (Kilosa), KATRIN (Ifakara), HORTI-Tengeru (Arusha) and private companies of Aminata Quality Seeds and Consultancy Limited, Tanzania Breweries Limited, Panar Seeds (T) Company, Namburi Seed Company, East African Seed (T) and Bajuta International (T) Limited.
Mass production of the approved varieties of seeds is scheduled to commence soon though no specifications were offered by the Agricultural Seeds Agency (ASA), who explained that their target is to ensure that the seeds are delivered to farmers ahead of the planting season.
According to the PS, the new technology is meant to enhance food security through conventional breeding and biotechnology tools and drought resistant maize varieties to be offered farmers on royalty free basis.
While this would be a boost to national food security, it is also expected to be good news to farmers countrywide who have for many years raised concern over few improved seed varieties in the market.
"As a result of climate change, rainfall patterns have changed considerably in recent years and drought has become more frequent and severe…" he said.
Drought is one of the leading factors behind low investment in improved farming practices because farmers are scared of losing their investments in the event a drought, mostly unpredictable and hence not covered by most insurance companies.
"The reality of climate change therefore calls for urgent action to develop appropriate coping mechanisms…”
One of such mechanism, according to the ministry researcher is to develop and introduce improved crop varieties that can grow well even in poor rains. His statement comes at a time when reports have it that one of the crops that have been severely affected by drought is maize, the most important food security crop in many sub-Saharan African countries.
Access to seeds that produce well on a consistent basis during moderate drought stress is expected to reduce the risk of crop failure and break the cycle of food insecurity.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), drought accounts for 50 per cent of the world's food emergencies annually, it is estimated that about 20 million tones of tropical maize production in sub-Saharan Africa is lost to drought each year.