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Science, technology and innovation works wonders in cassava

Science, technology and innovation works wonders in cassava

 

CASSAVA is an important crop for food and trade, as more than 800 million people worldwide depend on it.

In Africa, about 300 million people depend on the crop for food and trade, production of carbohydrates used in pharmaceutical industry and in the manufacturing of energy.

In Tanzania in 2018/19, cassava production reached 8.2 million tons per year in 990,835 hectares of cassava grown that year.

Manager of the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), Mikocheni Center in Dar es Salaam, Dr Joseph Ndunguru, says the crop, apart from bein useful for food and business, it is affected by two diseases, namely ‘Batobato’ and brown streaks.

Dr. Ndunguru says due to the presence of these diseases, production of cassava has a lot of losses. So to solve this problem, the use of science, technology and innovation has made it possible to identify cassava viruses and to identify which varieties of seeds have been improved and used to control various cassava viruses.

"Loses due to ‘Batobato disease is between two and three billion US dollars a year in Africa. The brown streaks disease causes a loss of US $ 35 to 70 million in Tanzania, this often causes farmers to stop growing cassava,” he says.

He talks about the scientific contribution to establishing cassava virus testing laboratories with the aim of ensuring that only certified virus-free seeds are delivered to farmers.

"For example, a plan has already been developed to guide seed distribution strategically, with the aim of ensuring that all stakeholders involved in the improvement of this crop ensure that before the seeds are distributed to farmers, they are tested in laboratories to ensure they are free of viruses.

"The laboratories are located at TARI Mikocheni, Tanzania Official Seed Certification (TOSCI) and in several university laboratories," he says. The goal of certified laboratories is to make them more efficient and productive.

He cites examples of cassava farms in Butiama and Rorya in Mara, Mbinga in Ruvuma region and Mkinga in Tanga region. He says in those farms after obtaining improved seeds which can withstand most types of viruses, production increased from five tons per hectare to 35 tons for those who planted the best seeds.

Due to the high production rate, it transformed the income of farmers compared than before.

A farmer Pamela John from Rorya says that thanks to the use of quality seeds, she has been able to earn more income and has also been able to sell seeds to her fellow farmers.

Dr. Ndunguru says when they went to Rwanda to conduct research on cassava, they found the situation was bad, so using a laboratory set up in their country to ensure all the seeds that farmers get are tested, they managed to harvest 45 tons per hectare, and as a result the government ordered distribution of the seeds nationwide, prompting the establishment of a cassava processing plant in Kanazi, Rwanda.

"In Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, things were the same, but there was an increase in productivity in cassava after scientific methods were used," he says.

He says now the results are positive as the established laboratories were researched by students.

"Here the farmer sees how science has contributed to the revolution of productive agriculture," he says.

Ndunguru says the project was a 10-year project to build the country's capacity to control cassava diseases to bring about productivity. The project, which involved Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique, was completed in 2018.

There is no doubt the contribution of science, technology and innovation can bear fruits in bringing productivity to cassava and other crops if used efficiently.

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Author: Lucy Ngowi

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