malnutrition and poverty in Tanzania and Africa as a whole had been given a boost.
With Tanzania’s agricultural sector contributing an estimated 30% towards the country’s GDP, and a further 70 per cent of its population purely dependent on agriculture, the launch of the AVISA project could not have come at a better time.
“We are bringing the international organisations together to benefit farmers through improved varieties which will later lead to improved livelihoods and improved income” said Peter Calbery, the director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
ICRISAT is the lead institution among the three other implementing institutions in the Bill and Melinda Gates funded project. The two others include the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) as well as the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
“The new project will continue supporting the breeding programs so that farmers get resilient crops which will deal with Tanzania’s as well as Africa’s problems of hidden hunger and malnutrition”, adds Calbery
With over 45 per cent of children in Tanzania facing malnutrition, AVISA project comes in to among other things support the availability of improved high iron and zinc beans. The International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Tanzania has been working towards accelerating release and access of the high iron beans among the rural communities of Tanzania.
“We have released approximately 27 new varieties of seeds and trained very many scientists, but we still have farmers using old varieties. We need to address the reasons why farmers are not having access to the new varieties” Said Dr. David Chikoye, IITA regional director.
Dr, Chikoye cites poor agronomical practices as well lack of markets and climate change are some of the factors that continue to hinder effective agriculture in Africa. He adds that the private sector needs to play an important role as a link by ensuring that farmers get the right seeds and use the right farming methods.
However, speaking during the launch, Agriculture Minister Japheth Hasunga alluded to the fact that over reliance on donor aid particularly on crop research and development was hindering Africa’s agricultural progress. The minister challenged African nations to set aside funds for research and development saying that only through this initiative, shall African countries break from donor reliance.
“Developed countries set aside funds in their national budgets of between 100-500% for research and development, yet poor countries like ours that say agriculture is the backbone of their economies do not set aside funds for this purpose. In this manner, we shall not be able to reach where we want to,” said Minister Hasunga.
The AVISA project is a 30million project, that supports breeding and seed delivery of dryland cereals and grain legumes. It also mainstreams the development of high iron zinc beans and pearl millet that is currently in the heart of the Bill and Melinda Gates Investment.
Apart from Tanzania, the project is also being implemented in six other countries that include Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Uganda, Nigeria and Ethiopia. “ For us at CIAT, this is a great boost to our farmers who are already accessing the high iron and zinc beans, with this support, it means we shall even reach more farmers with our seeds as well as technology” Says CIAT Tanzania’s director Dr. Jeanclaude Rubyogo.