TARI’ visit in the district follows Maria Nyerere’s request of improved and high yielding crop varieties from TARI for planting on her field. In this article, one of the TARI’s team, Principal Agricultural Research Officers who is also the current National Coordinator, Beans Program Dr. Rose Mongi granted an exclusive interview to our reporter Gerald Kitabu on the mission. Excerpts:
QUESTION: Briefly tell us about your tour of Butiama village, to the home of the First Phase Lady Maria Nyerere.
ANSWER: In fact I was very happy. It was a unique chance to meet Mama Maria Nyerere who has been in frontline to advocate nutritious foods for Tanzanians. The common bean is one of such crops that she has been insisting on due to its nutritious benefits to all ages regardless of gender.
Being a plant breeder with passions of contributing towards alleviating hidden hunger caused by lack of nutritious foods, my chemistry matches that of Mama Maria. She is such a wonderful and careering mother.
Q: Being a plant breeder, what is your experience in Butiama especially beans?
A: Many farmers in Butiama are still growing beans in a traditional way using mixtures of varieties with alarming disadvantages of low yields. This is a quote from Madaraka Nyerere who was present during demonstration in the field.
“ I grew beans in seven acre field and harvested only six bags, less than a bag per acre”. This prompted TARI researchers to plan for demonstration plots of four recently released varieties that are high yielding (more than eight bags per acre).
These varieties are Calima Uyole, Njano Uyole, Uyole 18 that are tolerant to diseases and highly marketable in neighboring countries of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DRC, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, and South Africa.
The varieties were well received in Butiama and farmers are having high expectations of boosting production, increase income, have more nutritious foods for the families especially to women and children.
As we all know, Butiama has large number of livestock ranging from cattle, goats and sheep. Bean fodder is a good source of animal feeds that can be used directly from the field.
Increasing bean productions will go hand in hand with increase in the amount of feeds available in the district. For those who do not keep cattle, sheep or goats, this is an opportunity of generating income through fodder sales that will also contribute in job creation and increase in income.
The advantage of soil fertility when beans are grown cannot be forsaken.
Bean has the ability to live in association with nitrogen fixing bacterial that take advantage of the bean roots and fix nitrogen from the air. As a cereal growing district, soils in Butiama can be improved considerably.
A number of households particularly in rural areas are either incapable of purchase high quality foods or are not knowledgeable about balanced diets and they often end-up with foods that are high in starch with little amount of protein.
As a result, hidden hunger is a common disaster with frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases. Beans is good source of protein that can easily be stored and accessed when needed.
Consequently, the bean leafy vegetable is a good source of vitamins and minerals that can be consumed more if production is boosted at individual farm level.
Q: Beans have been grown in Tanzania for more than a century. As the National Coordinator, Beans Program, what is the current position and status of the crop in Tanzania in general?
A: It is very true that beans have been grown in Tanzania for more than a century. The crop remains to be the main source of protein, vitamins and minerals to many households. Per capita consumption is estimated at 19.3kg with a total production of more than 1.2 million metric tonnes annually.
Although Tanzanian is leading Africa in bean production, the yield per unit area is low, standing at 1.2 tons per hectare compared to 2.5 tons per hectare. The tonnage produced does not suffice the high demand of the crop within and outside the country.
Tanzania is endowed with diversity of beans varieties with different colors, sizes and growing habits. Using this diversity, considerable efforts have been made in developing new varieties in which more than 42 have been released.
Along with that improved agronomic practices for bean production have been developed to increase production.
This includes land preparation, appropriate time of planting, seeding rate, recommended spacing, weed management insects and disease control. Bean production technologies are currently being disseminated country wide to all bean producing agro-ecologies/districts including Butiama.
Q: What about beans value chain and the crop’s future?
A: Like any other crops, beans can be processed into different food products such as porridge, bans, breads, and pastries especially when mixed with cereals. This has been indicated to increase consumption rates and promotion is currently underway in hospitals, clinics and schools.
The existence of good road networks and the country motive towards industrialization, will contribute to increasing production, processing and value addition of the crop.
The development of food industries is a good opportunity to increase food availability in the country but this must be balanced as experience shows that most of the food industries base on fats and starchy foods while majority of the populations are often incapable of supplementing their diet with protein foods.
Products such as pre-cooked beans will increased consumption, conserve the environment considering firewood used for cooking and serve time to cooks.
In this regard, common bean has a potential to contribute in alleviating poverty in the country and improve livelihoods of the people. In this regard, seed production of all classes and development of new varieties is a key driver in increasing bean production in the country.
Q: besides beans, did you demontrate any other high yielding crop?
A: TARI through Ukiriguru centre which is under Dr. Henricko Kulembeka handed over improved cassava varieties. Remember for the past ten years, TARI has been working hard and so far has researched and released several improved varieties that have high yielding and suitable for the farmers in the Lake zone. If you heard properly, TARI Director General Dr. Geoffrey Mkamilo said until December last year TARI had released a total of Nine improved cassava varieties and one of them is known as TARICAS 4 which, under good agricultural practices can produce up to fifty tonnes per hectare from the current seven tones per the same size of land.
The improved cassava varieties are a solution to diseases such as cassava mosaic disease and cassava brown streak diseases which have ravaged the crop and reduced productivity in the Lake zone.
We are actually very grateful to the President John Magufuli for putting in place conducive environment for conducting research in the country. It is through research that the country can produce more, get more raw materials for our industrial economy.