BEST, a promising turning point for cassava farming

25Nov 2021
Correspondent
Dodoma
The Guardian
BEST, a promising turning point for cassava farming

​​​​​​​THE Building Economically Sustainable Seed System for Cassava in Tanzania (BEST Cassava) Project has helped to improve performance of the agriculture sub-sector.

With the support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the five year (2017-2021) project has equipped farmers with access to improved and disease-free varieties.

Implemented by the Mennonite Economic Development Association (MEDA) in partnership with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI), the constructive initiative assisted for the introduction of nine improved cassava seed varieties in the span of five years of its operation.                                                 

“Through the project, TARI was funded to research and produce five new varieties of disease - tolerant, namely TARI-Cass I, TARI-Cass II, TARI-Cass III, TARI-Cass IV, and TARI-Cass V,” said Stephen Magige, Country Manager for MEDA -Best Cassava.          

He said that the project also facilitates for the promotion of another four cassava varieties, among them include Kiroba, Kizimbani, Kipusa and Mkuranga one.  

“These seeds were prior used by the farmers in Coastal lowland regions, but through the project, the varieties have been released and promote to be used by farmers countrywide.”

There’re 17 others seed varieties in the pipeline to be released to the farmers in a near future.

In the past, he said the situation was bad as farmers were recycling the seeds and waiting for free distribution from district councils, NGOs or purchase from unreliable sources.

“The project helped to bridge the existed gap between the farmers and seed breeder (TARI), through using of the commercial model that create Cassava Seed Entrepreneur's (CSE) farmers, the farmers who have been trained and turned into professional seed dealers,” Magige explained.     

Through the project, he said, 606 CSEs’ farmers have been trained and officially registered at TOSCI for a general purpose to produce and market to the farmers improved cassava seeds at patriotic prices.              

Magige said the CSEs’ farmers are currently producing the seeds at different levels, including basic, certified and Quality Declared Seed (QDS).

“This system has for the first time in Tanzania enabled for the professional system on registering, inspection and seed certification standards for cassava seeds,”  he said, adding that with the improved seeds being introduced throughout the project, farmers are successful managed to address cassava mosaic and cassava steak diseases.          

Operated in the 11 regions of Coastal, Morogoro, Tanga, Mtwara, Lindi, Ruvuma, Mwanza, Kagera, Mara, Geita and Kigoma, the initiative which is due to phase out on 31st December, this year has managed to reach out to and assisted at least 46,596 cassava farmers in the regions in question.            

“The project has also managed to effectively advocating for friendly policy towards the cassava sub-sector, especially among the producer farmers as well as other players in the cassava sub sector,” he said.

The initiative did a lot to advance TARI's seed production technologies, for instance, the project installed modern laboratory equipment at TARI- Kibaha, specifically to facilitate tissue culture seed production technology as well as other useful seed multiplication technologies such as Semi-Autotropic Hydroponic (SAH) and two nodes multiplication.

The project also assisted TOSCI to purchase modern equipment for their lab used for seed diagnosis.  It has also empowered TOSCI with diverse technologies, such as the cassava seed tracker technology.

Other agro technologies introduced by the project is the introduction of the Plant Village Nuru App.      

With the said App, he detailed, the farmers are currently stand a self- professional chance to detect diseases that are infecting their crops while on the fields.         

“We have also managed to develop a viable business models with an eye to ensure for quality and profitability among the cassava tuber farmers, seed producer farmers as well as processors,” he noted.              

The project has recorded a number of achievements that lure different cassava stakeholders to come in the country from Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda to learn the systems.                                                      

In order to fast-track seed inspection and certification exercises, the programme facilitated special seed inspection training to 130 extension officers in different rural areas.            

The said agricultural extension officers have been equipped with skills and knowledge in seed inspection, and are legally recognized by TOSCI.

To ensure for sustainability of the initiative, Magige stated that the project had developed a constructive supportive structure, which among others, include formation of the association of cassava seed producer farmers as well as that of processors.                   

Apart from the modern lab, the project empowered TOSCI with diverse technologies—cassava seed tracker technology.

According to him, the vital agro-technologies introduced by the project is the introduction of the Plant Village Nuru App.      

With the said App, farmers are currently standing a self- professional chance to detect diseases that are infecting their crops while on the fields.         

“We have also managed to develop a viable business models with an eye to ensure for quality and profitability among the cassava tuber farmers, seed producer farmers as well as processors,” he said, noting:

“With the achievements recorded in the project, more cassava stakeholders are coming in Tanzania from as far as Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda to learn the systems.                                                     

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