ASA CEO encourages smallholder farmers to use improved landrace seeds

20Nov 2019
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
ASA CEO encourages smallholder farmers to use improved landrace seeds

LOCAL farmers have been challenged to adopt uses of improved seed varieties as a way to increase their productivity, as well as combating effects of climatic change.

ASA Tanzania CEO, Dr Sophia Kashenge.

Experts warn that there has been a poor pace of adoption of improved seeds by smallholder famers in the country, a situation which weakens performance of the sector which is the backbone of the economy.

According to agriculture and seed experts, at least 80 percent of farmers in the country are still using traditional seeds which have denied them benefits of hybrid seeds which include bumper harvests.

Giving an exclusive interview to The Guardian on the sideline of Exhibition of Landrace Seeds and Natural Foods, Dr Sophia Kashenge who is Chief Executive Officer of Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA-Tanzania) said application of improved seeds is paramount in improving performance of the agriculture sector.

“Basically, landrace seeds are very rich in terms of nutrients and other genetic materials, but due to on-going changes in the globe and Tanzania, including rapid increase in human population and climate change, use of improved seed becomes vital,” Kashenge said.

She said the country continues to witnessing a shortfall in cultivated land due to increased human population and settlements hence the need for farmers to adopt improved seeds in order to get high yield from small farms.

On her part, Head of Root and Tuber Department at Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) –Hombolo Centre, Elizabeth Mpayo said through conventional breeding technology, the landrace seeds are being improved in key areas, hence urged farmers to not hesitating using them.

“Conventional breeding is a scientific -health system of value addition of landrace seeds, often to increase the seeds’ yielding output, drought tolerance and pesticides,” Mpayo elaborated.

The timely exhibition was organized by PELUM Association under financial patronage of ActionAid to give a platform to relevant policy makers, seeds experts and agencies, agricultural institutions and seeds producer farmers to deliberate on uses of landrace and improved seeds within the country.

Briefing over the event, country coordinator at PELUM Association, Donati Senzia, said the exhibition was tailored to assist farmers manage recommended seed system, but also, to sensitize the public on the need to eat natural foods.

Speaking on behalf of rural farmers, Janeth Nyamayahasi who is Chairperson of Smallholders’ Women Farmers in Chamwino district (JUWWACHA), which is under the financial patronage of ActionAid, said farmers in rural areas are crippled by diverse handicaps, including unreliable access to key agriculture in-puts, climatic change, and lack of agronomic skills.

“If the government really wants to industrialize the country’s economy through the agriculture sector, it’s useful to promote use of landrace seeds among farmers in rural areas. The seeds, locals, are easily available in rural areas and are sold at friendly prices to farmers,” she observed.

However, she hailed ActionAid for standing at fore front in supporting smallholder’s women farmers in many villages within the country to adopt and practices recommended agronomic practices.

Other institutions which featured at the exhibition include: Tropical Pesticides Research Institute, Growing Africa’s Agriculture, Rural Initiative Participatory Agriculture Transformation and National Plant Genetic Resources Center of Tanzania. More than 220 landrace seed producing farmers participated at the exhibition which was also attended by policy and lawmakers.