Strong seed base ‘a must for Tanzania to have sustainable profitable agriculture’

A STRONG seed base, more so vegetable seed base, should remain at the heart of what agriculture stakeholders have been working on so hard in recent decade in order to reform Tanzania’s agriculture, make the occupation profitable to farmers and make the country a dependable breadbasket for East, Central and Southern Africa.

This is a view emphasized here by World Vegetable Centre’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Dr Gabriel Rugalema when he talked to reporters who visited the centre last week to learn what they are doing to support agriculture stakeholders in transforming Tanzania’s agriculture sector.

The expert said he longs to see Tanzania put a lot of effort in seed research and production to overcome deficiencies like low volumes of commercial seeds.  “You need a strong seed base to have a strong crop production base,” he quipped.

He said their centre is happy with the government’s efforts in taking varied approaches to reform the agriculture sector, but he emphasized: “while we appreciate deeply these efforts, emphasis must be put on strengthening the seed sub-sector in Tanzania for it is important for seeds to be processed and produced locally and ensure they reach farmers in a manner that meets their requirements.”

In a separate interview, Dr Rugalema also said his centre has always been uneasy because of the deficiencies intrinsic in the African seed sector, more so the vegetable seed sector, explaining that in order to skirt around that problem, their centre teamed up with the African Seed Traders Association (AfSTA) to form the African Vegetable Breeding Consortium (AVBC) to promote robust seed research, production, quality control, investment in seed research and seed trade system.

The centre’s Director of Finance and Administration, Mr David Sarakikya said the centre receives PhD candidates engaged in seed programmes. “We have also been a centre for producing experts in the seed sub-sector,” he said.

“The centre also trains tertiary institution and secondary school leavers through a programme called ‘ready for employment’,” he said.

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