Improved seeds key for more yields, cash for farmers

12Oct 2021
Gerald Kitabu
The Guardian
Improved seeds key for more yields, cash for farmers

AS Tanzania strives to change its agriculture from predominantly subsistence to commercial, one of the bottlenecks hindering farmers from increasing their yields is lack of affordable improved seed varieties.

The Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) has conducted a number of researches and introduced various seed varieties that the government hopes will upend status of farmers in the near future but if well embraced.

Speaking in Kasulu District, Kigoma Region recently, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said that seeds developed by TARI so far can be used to transform Tanzanian agriculture.

The PM spoke after visiting oil palm seedling field owned by Red Cross. The organization is promoting the new high-yield tenera variety to replace the traditional varieties.

Majaliwa said the government has decided to use the improved seeds produced by Tanzanian agricultural researchers because some imported seeds are poor in quality and do not bring desired yields.

“When the government started research and production of tenera variety in 2018, I saw it as a difficult work but TARI experts assured me that it was possible,” he said.

Instead of importing the improved oil palm seeds, the government through TARI decided to conduct research and later started producing the seedlings locally, an undertaking now rated as successful.

The Premier said the research work started in 2018 and in late 2019, the tenera seedlings were panted and in less than three years, they have already started producing fruits.

So far TARI has produced more than 6.5 million improved seeds and the target is to produce 10 million per annum.

TARI’s work has amswered questions previously raised by members of parliament from Kigoma who have for years been asking the government to take initiative and make available improved oil palm seeds in the region, he said.

“We decided to shift TARI from Dar es Salaam to Kihinga and we brought all researchers whereby the research work started immediately,” he said.

The seedlings are also available in all district and town councils, military bases such as 821 Bulombora KJ which has 4,000 seedlings and so far planted 400 acres and has extra seedlings to plant 300 acres by end of this month.

Kwitanga Prison is set to grow 6,000 acres of oil palm and has already planted 700 acres. Primary and secondary schools have also established small farms ranging from three to five acres depending on the size of the school.

Investors and individual farmers in the region have also planted the improved oil palm variety in different locations.

Besides TARI, Bulombora and Kwitanga, Red Cross has become the fourth institution that is supporting the government’s efforts to transform agriculture. Red Cross in Kasulu District has established a 25 acres of tenera variety and the farm was reported to be in good condition.

“I urge individual farmers and institutions to grow oil palm; it is a profitable crop that can change lives of our people for the better. It is a crop that you can continue harvesting for more than 30 years,” the PM said.

“If you love your son or daughter who is in primary school, I urge you to grow this crop as soon as possible.”

He said parents should grow three or more acres of oil palm for their children because if well-tended, the crop is likely to educate children throughout secondary school up to university.

“When your children complete university, they can be inspired to come back home and venture into agri-business through this crop, “he said.

Kigoma has fertile soil and conducive climate for agricultural but especially oil palm. PM said that residents of the region work hard in agriculture and that is why the government shifted TARI from Dar es Salaam to Kihinga in Kigoma.

He urged residents of Kasulu  to stop stealing seedlings from their neighbours’ fields, the practice which demoralizes some farmers who fall victim of such senseless theft, he said, advising that instead, they should order the seedlings from relevant institutions which currently provide the same for free.

“The seedlings are available even if you want more than 1,000 you will get them for free. I directed authorities at Kasulu District Council to establish oil palm nurseries for the farmers and they have done so. I have been informed that the seedlings are being distributed to farmers for free,” he said.

“I urged you to form small farmer groups and Agricultural Marketing Co-operative Societies and grow the improved oil palm variety.”

He reminded farmers to gradually start uprooting the traditional dura varieties and replace them tenera variety.

“I all extension officers to work with farmers and train them on good agricultural practices right from farm preparation to harvesting and safe storage,” he said.

TARI conducted research which resulted in the production of the new variety by crossbreeding two varieties namely dura and Pisifera.

Tenera has thick mesocarp, thin shell and higher yield potential which according to researchers, makes the variety a better choice because of its higher oil content compared to traditional dura variety.

In Kigoma, there are hectors the traditional dura variety which was introduced in the region in the 1920s.

TARI Director General Dr Geoffrey Mkamilo said after receiving the government’s directive in 2018, TARI has been working round the clock to make sure that the improved seeds are available.

“After that research, we worked with different partners to produce and disseminate seeds to farmers, investors and other stakeholders,” he said

“Production and dissemination take place at different institutions such as Bulombora Natonal Service, Kwitanga Prison and at all district councils in Kigoma region.”

He said the next step is to replace the old oil palm trees existing in Tanzania with Tenera variety. The country require a total of 570,000 metric tonnes of edible oil but the current production stands at 40 per cent of the required edible oil while 60 per cent is imported. This costs the nation approximately 44bn/- annually

Dr Mkamilo said the government has decided to boost oil palm by sensitizing farmers and institutions to embrace tenera variety to address shortage of edible oil in the country.

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