TARI’s strategies to boost coconut research and production – 2

21Aug 2020
Gerald Kitabu
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
TARI’s strategies to boost coconut research and production – 2

The fifth phase government has worked tremendously to promote Coconut research, production to increase productivity. In this second part of coconut research and development, Senior Agricultural Research Officer (Plant Virology) who is-

Senior Agricultural Research Officer (Plant Virology) who is also the National Coconut Research Coordinator Dr Deusdedith Mbanzibwa at TARI-Mikocheni conducting research. Photo by Gerald Kitabu

-also the National Coconut Research Coordinator Dr. DEUSDEDITH MBANZIBWA at TARI-Mikocheni in Dar es Salaam explains strategies to boost coconut production so that it can contribute to industrial economy. Excerpts:

QUESTION: what are other achievements registered in the research and development of Coconut crop?

ANSWER: As said earlier on, there are many achievements for example in capacity building. The National Coconut Development Programme (NCDP) is credited for human capacity development. Apart from short courses to 296 coconut stakeholders, the programme supported 55, 26, 24, and 13 persons to undertake diploma, bachelor degree, Masters degree and PhD degree studies, respectively. Upon returning to the institute (now a TARI centre), these persons continued to carry research and solicited funds, which supported coconut research though at smaller scale compared to NCDP. To-date, TARI-Mikocheni is renowned for its contribution to capacity building in coconut and other crops research areas.

Another achievement is dissemination of information to coconut stakeholders. During implementation of the programme, liaison offices were established at local government authorities’ offices to link researchers with coconut farmers, and to all coconut stakeholders at large. This however, was not sustained after the NCDP phased out as liaison offices required funds to run. During implementation of the programme more than 1000 extension personnel and 300000 coconut farming households were trained on improved coconut crop husbandry and coconut value adding techniques. Extension materials used were leaflets, newsletter, extension visual aids and coconut manuals. Also, a 25 years of coconut research book has been published (see the second footnote) documenting technologies, successes and challenges in coconut production in Tanzania. The book will always be useful to those interested in coconut research for development. Televisions and radios were used to air messages on coconut production.

Q: What has been the impact of NCDP in terms of production?

A: Through this programme, the area under coconut production increased from 240,000 ha to 265,000 ha (with planting rate at 1 -2 %). Annual coconut production increased from 554.4 million nuts in 1986 to 898.3 million nuts in 2004. The attitude of farmers changed from considering coconut for household consumption to being market oriented – furniture production, coconut oil production etc. It created jobs for women involved in virgin coconut oil production. While the area under coconut production might have decreased, there is no doubt its importance has remained the same and it has continued to create jobs and serve as a main source of income for households in the coastal belt and in the commercial city of Dar es Salaam.

Q: What are the strategies to boost coconut production and productivity?

A: The centre would like to promote all technologies developed under NCDP. However, due to budget constraint, the centre is focused on massive multiplication and delivery of clean planting material to farmers. To achieve this, we would like to do the following: to maintain our coconut seed farm and germplasm collection at Chambezi sub-station in Bagamoyo, to develop a coconut seed production and delivery system, to establish Centre managed and community managed coconut seedling nurseries and to promote intercropping and Integrated pest management technologies (Good Agricultural Practices). Note that overshooting of the budget is normally due to basic and applied research. In here, we simply think of promoting and delivering our past developed technologies to coconut farming community. It may be of interest to coconut stakeholders to learn that we have started establishing community based coconut seedling nurseries, with the latest effort being establishment of the same in Pangani district. The idea here is for TARI to technically support LGAs to establish nurseries, which are fully managed by farmers in their respective areas.

Q: What are approaches used?

A: Maintaining seed farm and germplasm collection. The 54-ha seed farm and a 27-ha at Chambezi sub-station are very important for coconut research and development (R&D) but not self-sustaining because we operate as service provider to the coconut farming communities. Thus, efforts have been geared towards preventing fires and weeds using a small amount of funds obtained after selling seedlings and seed nuts. The following strategies are planned to maintain the seed farm and a germplasm collection:

We plan to write proposals to solicit funds, which will enable funding further activities such as fertilizing the seed farm and replacing aging plants. There will be increased production of seedlings to ensure we raise more funds for maintenance of the farms. Our accessions in the germplasm are decreasing at alarming rate. Maintaining coconut germplasm is a very expensive undertaking. Nevertheless, for our country’s reputation and for the betterment of our people and especially those in the coastal areas, the germplasm should be maintained at any costs. We work hard to solicit funds for their multiplication and replacements – this does not amount to breeding which would require enormous funding. Development of coconut seed delivery system. One of the strategies to boost coconut production and productivity is development of an efficient seed delivery system. Like is the case for many other crops in Tanzania, there is no seed delivery system for coconut. Such delivery system would ensure production and supply of quality seedlings to farmers. To develop an efficient seedlings delivery system the following are being considered: Conduct a study to understand the current seed delivery means, conduct stakeholders’ meetings to conceptualize on the best means coconut, test different models of seed delivery to farmers, and compare the root and tuber seed delivery system to a selected model of seed delivery for analysis of problems that may arise.

Establish seed nurseries at the centre and community levels. Farmers who contact us normally complain of lack of access to seedlings, leave alone quality seedlings. Therefore, this is considered as the single most important strategy in revamping the coconut sub-sector. The first nursery has been established at the centre’s substation in Bagamoyo. The nursery benefit from the seed farm at the Chambezi sub-station. Another type of nurseries to be established are community managed ones. As hinted above, we have started doing this and lately we facilitated establishment of a community managed coconut nursery in Pangani where coconut production is the main agricultural activity. We shall continue doing this in other areas. The farmers at ward (or even village level) will establish coconut nurseries under supervision of village and ward agricultural officers. The nurseries will be supported with seed nuts from TARI-Mikocheni Centre. Our seed farm has the capacity of supplying up to 30,000 seed nuts. Further seed nuts can be obtained from farmers owned coconut farms with a history of no LD. However, for the community-based coconut nurseries to be sustainable, the responsible local government authorities will have to be committed and have coconut sub-sector development as one of the agendas in their districts’ plans.

Promote intercropping and integrated pest management technologies challenges. It has been demonstrated that the income of coconut farming households can be improved through encouraging diversification in agriculture. Planting of root and tuber crops or grain legumes, which are annual crops ensures farmers earn income when the coconut plants are too young to set nuts. Intercropping with horticultural crops, on the other hand, in addition to contributing to income of households make it possible to apply integrated pest management techniques in managing pests of palms (e.g., use of weaver ants to manage coreid bugs). Moreover, when there are price fluctuations, the farmer may benefit from one of the intercropped crops if it fetches better prices in market.

Also, the farmers will be trained on good agricultural practices, including management of lethal disease of coconut. While there is no cure, use of tolerant planting materials, avoiding infected plants in the field and ensuring field sanitation can reduce appreciably the LD incidence. There will also be a need for considering how to undertake regular surveillance of the LD in the coastal belt.

Question: Do you have any other comment about the crop

Answer: I understand the fifth phase government has worked tremendously to promote and develop agriculture for their thirst has been to industrialise the country. For instance, the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa Majaliwa, has done an excellent work to revamp production of oil palm in the country. I wish he could do the same for the coconut sub-sector, which has a great potential to transform livelihood of the communities in the coastal belt dwellers.