Rice is a major staple food and a mainstay for the rural population and their food security and kilosa rice is one of main food and cash crops cultivated by small farmers in holdings of less than one hectare.
The farmers said the government should promote SRI so that many farmers can fruitfully engage into commercial rice production and benefit from local and international marketing opportunities.
Ritha Rodgers, a farmer from Ilonga village, Chanzulu ward in the district, explained that by using SRI technology, better income will trigger farmers to start processing industries and invest in other cash crops such as cassava and maize to produce raw materials to feed the industries.
She said that currently, many farmers still cling to traditional rain fed agriculture with poor or shortage of inputs, a situation which reduces yields and productivity from their land.
“Since SRI was introduced in our village, the farmers who changed ways of growing rice and managing water and soils have witnessed increased rice productivity. In some areas, the crops have shown more resilience to the hazards of climate change,” she explained.She said that with new technology, she has increased rice production from the previous 8 bags per acre to more than 30 bags per the same size of acre.
“For the first time in my life, I have managed to pay school fees for my children and expand my farm from the sale of my rice crop, unlike before when the harvest from traditional methods of farming was uncertain,” said Ritha, one of over 30 commercial rice farmers in Kilosa.
Ritha who cultivated 1 ½ of rice said she is expected to use knowledge and experience gained from the previous agricultural season to expand her farm to more than three acres.
According to Ritha, SRI is a hard work. It requires the farmer to full dedicate his or her full time to make sure that all agronomics are carefully followed.
Citing an example, she said that during main field preparation, the land is cultivated and flattened to get required lowland area as directed by agro-extension officers and then perfect leveling is done. This is a pre-requisite for the water management.
During planting farmers are supposed to carefully transplant single seedlings at two-leaf stage, generally between 8 and 12 days then plant seedlings at a distance of 25 cm or more in a square pattern and the farmer is also supposed to keep soil moist and aerated. Certain amount of fertilizers are applied during and after planting.
Irrigation is done only to moist the soil in the early period of 10 days. The farmer can restore irrigation to a maximum depth of 2.5cm after some few days, the farmer can increase irrigation depth to 5.0cm .
Commenting on weed management, Godfrey Paschal, a farmer from Ilonga irrigation scheme explained that the farmer is supposed to make sure that the rice field is always clean.
“Weeding is done regularly to ensure that all columns and rows are clean. Because of lack of modern equipments, the ordinary farmer can weed manually to remove the weeds closer to rice root zone,” he explained.
“Harvests have increased from the previous 8 bags per acre to more than 30 and some farmers have even opened savings account and farmers’ groups such as VICOBA,” he said.
Kilian Mkuchu and Catherine Mokiwa also rice farmers who have been getting between 10 and 12 bags per acre, they are currently harvesting between 25 and 30 bags. They called on the government to supply adequate inputs and technologies on time so that many farmers can benefit.
Kwanzulu ward agricultural officer, Anna Masele who supervises four villages explained that she directly works with farmers to ensure best farming practices are adhered to. She urged farmers to make better decisions to increase agricultural production.
She explained that implementation of SRI in the area has transformed farmers from the previous traditional farming to modern farming which in turn has increased productivity.
SRI has also attracted many women and the youth who were jobless and those who had been on the run to urban centres and major cities like Dar es Salaam they are now back into agriculture.
They have learnt how to effectively and efficiently use water with their crops showing more resilience to the hazards of climate change “Unlike traditional methods, the SRI has enabled many farmers to expand their agriculture from the previous one Acre to more than two acres in a single agricultural season.
They are getting more than 30 bags. Those who adhere to agronomics, are even getting more than 40 bags per acre,” she added.The agro-extension officer advised farmers to keep at least five bags of rice for sale to get money for buying inputs that would enable them farm efficiently and effectively.
“From the beginning, I was often providing consultation with farmers. In these consultations, I would give them guidance and actual demonstration on the SRI technologies to agriculture and on how they can take advantage of SRI to expand their fields. They also attended seminars and also worked with other researchers from Chollima-Dakawa agriculture research centre,” she said.Ilonga village Chairman Matola Paschael explained that introduction of a system of rice intensification in Kilosa has attracted many villagers to start growing rice after they have seen the impact.
“In recent years, there are influx of many people asking and others buying farms for rice growing. The SRI is a very good agriculture because it has provided youth employment. They were previously jobless,” he explained.The project leader, Hezron Tusekelege said that the project on participatory validation and up scaling of system of rice intensification in Morogoro Region was funded by COSTECH at a tune of 139.6m/- shillings. He said it started in 2012 until 2015.
The project aimed at enabling farmers to acquire the technology, and access to improved seeds. In the project area, this problem has been solved by 90 percent,” he said. The farmers also learnt on how to use water efficiently and increase rice productivity.
Tusekelege who is currently a retired agriculture research officer at Chollima-Dakawa Agriculture research centre named the thematic area of the project as proven technologies needing validation and or promising results in solving production and service constraints.
Three locations were used to conduct the research, namely; Dakawa village and Hembeti village in Mvomero District and Ilonga Msalabani village in Kilosa District. The farmers were selected to participate as researcher farmers in the project. Along with the researcher farmers, other farmers group visited the project sites and they were trained by researcher farmers in their respective locations where the project was conducted. They include farmers from Moshi, Same, Mbeya, Mbarali, Iringa District – Idodi ward, Kilombero – Mkasu village, Tabora- Igunga District.
Also Agronomists and Irrigation Engineers trained SRI principles. Some of them from the Ministry Agriculture and the team of the project participated in the training.The impacts of the project
According to Hezron Tusekelege the Technology of SRI has been achieved by 90 percent through the research farmers and the agro-extension officers participatory field training.
He explained that yields per hectare has doubled and in some areas the SRI posted wonderful harvests from 2.5 tonnes per hectare to 5 or 6 tonnes per hectare in irrigation schemes.
Rice Variety TXD 307 a promising new variety were selected and proposed both by farmers and researchers to be using SRI farming in irrigation scheme.
Despite the achievements, there were some challenges such as lack of reliable transport for the researchers to and from the selected research locations. Some farmers said that they were ready to venture into commercial agriculture but had no reliable access to credits to expand their capital and reliable market opportunities to sale their rice.
They called on the government to ensure farmers especially women get access to credit facilities from banks and other financial institutions.
The government should also fund the technology to committed individual, farmers throughout the country to increase production to ensure food security, and make Tanzania an export nation,” They said.
Director General for Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) Dr Hassan Mshinda commended the SRI saying if used properly by the farmers, it will change their life.
Dr Mshinda whose commission funded the project said that the system of rice intensification should be adopted and scaled up by district councils in the country.
He explained that costech funding aims at seeing the changes at the grassroots level and not merely good publications in shelves.“When we fund a certain project we want to see impact, I mean changes. So I would like to call on district councils to scale up this technology by using the agro-extension officers who are working very closely with our farmers across the country,” he said. “This technology did not start in Tanzania, it started in other countries but because it is useful and has proved to double rice productivity, we have to use the agro-extension officers to scale it up in our districts, wards and villages so that many farmers can benefit,” he added.
He said given climate change and increasing crop pests and diseases, researchers should make sure that they conduct their research activities that aimed at producing drought tolerant and resistant to diseases seed.
Citing an example, he said that biotech in Kizimbani Agricultural Training Institute in Zanzibar is doing a great job in crops production. Kizimbani has revolutionised agriculture in Zanzibar by introducing the new disease-resistant and high-yielding varieties using biotechnology.
For improved agriculture and crop productivity, biotechnology is must. It should be used to find solution to the emerging problems such as droughts and diseases,” he explained.
According to biotechnology experts, applications of biotechnology have led to new products and processes that have a competitive edge over the traditional ones in terms of effectiveness, productivity, cost and safety.
The level and pace of biotechnology research and development in Tanzania has remained rather slow but the country is picking up gradually, with the agricultural sector being one of the most active ones.
According to Biotech expert, Dr Emmarold Mneney, Tanzania government in consultation with all major stakeholders developed the national biotechnology policy in 2010 that provides guidelines towards safe applications of biotechnology in research and as well as the provision of biotechnology-based products and services in all sectors of the economy.
The general objective of this policy is to ensure that Tanzania has the capacity and capability to capture the proven benefits arising from GM technology in a safe and sustainable manner. Agricultural biotechnology has a lot to offer to farmers, especially at this period where farmers are faced with number of challenges.
The National coordinator for open forum on agricultural biotechnology which is under costech, Philbert Nyinondi said that Tanzania farmers if allowed to go for latest biotechnology stage, which is genetically engineering the benefits at individual farmers, will increase productivity or reduce cost by: increasing yield, improving protection from insects and disease, increasing their crops’ tolerance to heat, drought, and other environmental stress. More important farmers will conserve soil and energy, reduce greenhouse gases, minimise use of toxic herbicides, and conserve soil fertility and natural resources.