Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) has researched and spearheaded the release of 26 new cassava seed varieties as part of efforts to heighten production and productivity of the economic cash crop in the country.
Tanzania is the twelfth largest producer of cassava in the world and the sixth in Africa, with a current productivity of 8.5 tons per hectare, the lowest extent compared to 60 tons that can be produced per hectare through the application of improved seeds and recommended agronomic practices.
To reverse the situation, TARI has been researching and producing improved seeds and running different capacity-building programs to impart the extension officers and growers of the tuber crop with the best agronomic practices.
A cassava scientist at TARI Ukiriguru, Mr Innocent Ndyetabula, told The Chanzo that out of the 26 officially released improved varieties, at least nine varieties have become the farmer’s best choice and are widely cultivated while their demand is increasing.
“According to a special study on Demand Creation Trial (DCT), conducted recently through the Building an Economically Sustainable and Integrated Seed System for Cassava’ –(BASIC II) project, the nine varieties have attracted popular use among the farmers and other relevant stakeholders in the Lake Zone, as well as in the Eastern and Southern Zones,” Mr Ndyetabula said.
He added that the varieties had gained popularity among farmers, processors and consumers due to abilities to produce cassava with good taste, high productivity, and resistance to diseases, among others.
Mr Ndyetabula added that the varieties that are also famous for maturing within nine and 12 months since when planted include TARICASS 4, Mkumba na Kiroba (for Lake Zone), Chereko, TARICASS 4, Kipusa, Pwani, Mkuranga 1 and Kizimbani (Suitable for Eastern Zone).
For the Southern Zone, he explained that TARICASS 4, Kiroba, TARICASS 1, Mkuranga 1 and Chereko have proved to perform well.
“These cassava seed varieties have a potential of producing between 25 and 30 tons per hectare, which is far above 5 and 8 tons that are being produced through landrace seeds which succumb to viral diseases,” Mr Ndyetabula said.
According to him, what impresses the farmers is that the varieties can produce many cassava seed cuttings in a single plant, noting: “These new varieties are greatly beneficial for the farmers and other stakeholders engaging in the cassava seeds production and marketing sub-sector.”
The high–profile cassava pundit urged the farmers to turn out in multitude and adopt the use of the useful seed varieties, adding: “The farmers can access the seeds from either the Cassava Seed Entrepreneurs (CSEs) or through the established Cassava Seed Producer Associations that are available countrywide.”
The Ministry of Agriculture is implementing a sustainable cassava strategic plan that seeks, among others, to heighten acreages for the production of improved seed varieties for cassava from 40,000 hectares in 2020 to 260,000 in 2030.
In the execution of the robust, vital strategy, the government is working in cooperation with TARI and other stakeholders from within and outside the country to increase the number of improved cassava seed cuttings from 80 million to at least 1.6 billion per annum.
In the same vein, late last year, various stakeholders in the country’s cassava production sub-sector signed a special Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with TARI to implement a project to boost Early Generation Seed production (EGS) and productivity of the economic cash crop.
Dubbed ‘Building an Economically Sustainable and Integrated Seed System for Cassava’ – (BASIC II), the launched initiative focuses on ensuring cassava productivity and incomes of smallholders receive support through access to and application of affordable and improved cassava seed varieties.
The stakeholders involved in implementing the vital strategy include the Mennonite Economic Development Associate (MEDA), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and the Ministry of Agriculture.
In recognition of the strategic importance of cassava to the Tanzania economy and food security, in 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture put in place a cassava development strategy (2020-2030) with a target to expand the areas planted with improved cassava seed varieties production from 40,000 hectares in 2020 to 260,000 in 2030 that will increase the number of improved cassava seed cuttings from 80 million to at least 1.6 billion per annum.
Despite flourishing in many regions, cassava is grown in Kagera, Tanga, Geita, Tabora, Shinyanga, Mwanza, Kigoma, Mara, Lindi and Mtwara.
At least 45 per cent of the cassava is being produced and processed in the country’s border regions (Kagera na Kigoma) before being exported to the neighbouring countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and DR- Congo.
Valentine Oforo is a freelance journalist based in Dodoma, Tanzania. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.