TANZANIA: A KEY player in horticulture industry is working overtime to scale-up the uptake of climate-smart agricultural practices and technologies, as the rising heat compounded by climate change threatens to scorch the multi-million-dollar green industry.
Notwithstanding being a significant source of annual export value amounting to nearly $750 million, food security and nutrition in Tanzania, horticultural farming is currently grappling with multiple challenges of low production and productivity, attributed to unreliable rainfall, pests, poor soil fertility, improper use of agricultural inputs and poor infrastructure, primarily triggered by climate change.
Available data shows that horticultural crops such as potatoes and bananas contribute 17 per cent to the Tanzania food security basket and experts say that if its scope expanded to include other important crops such as sweet potatoes, its contribution would be much higher.
In response, TAHA through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)’s backed – Growing Wealth Through Horticulture (GROWTH) project is currently offering a series of tailor-made training on climate-smart agriculture practices to the government and private extension officers for them to transfer the knowledge to the critical mass of farmers.
TAHA’s Agronomist Lead, Mr Gilead Mollel said that 80 government extension officers are being imparted with climate-smart farming skills and in return, they would replicate the knowledge to 6,400 lead farmers in Coast, Tanga, Dodoma, Manyara and Arusha regions.
“Our approach helps farmers to transform horticultural farming towards climate resilience in efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change through the SIDA-funded GROWTH project,” Mr Mollel explained, adding: “Emphasis has been on scaling-up adoption of climate-smart technologies in a bid to boost productivity whilst conserving the environment”.
So far 32 government extension officers have been imparted with skills on climate-smart farming in Manyara and Coast regions, as part of the strategy to achieve cultivation in harmony with nature.
“We have devised an integrated approach to managing landscapes—cropland, livestock and forests—that address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change” Mr Mollel explained.
TAHA CEO, Ms Jacqueline Mkindi said that the negative impacts of climate change are already being felt in horticulture farms, in the form of increasing temperatures, weather variability, shifting agro-ecosystem boundaries, invasive crops and pests, and more frequent extreme weather occurrences.
“On farms, climate change is reducing crop yields, the nutritional quality of horticultural crops and lowering productivity” Ms Mkindi explained, adding: “Substantial investments in adaptation are required to achieve production and food quality increase to meet demand”.
She said that the whole idea of the SIDA-funded GROWTH project is to facilitate a significant horticulture cultivation transformation to meet the multiple challenges of climate change, food insecurity, malnutrition, poverty and environmental degradation.
“Through GROWTH project we aim to increase competitiveness and sustainability of horticulture industry. Boost productivity by improving knowledge on efficient and sustainable farming methods, with emphasis on integrating environment, climate change and biodiversity,” Ms Mkindi noted.
It is understood that the project also intends to increase access to markets for Tanzanian horticultural products, contribution to advocacy for better policy and business enabling environment for horticultural industry’s competitiveness and inclusiveness.
TAHA, a key SIDA partner —is seen as a perfect locally rooted organisation that advances inclusive horticulture farming practices and climate-smart technologies application, through a multi-faceted approach to lift Tanzania’s horticultural farmers from abject poverty to prosperous lives.