Tanzania is a sleeping vegetable giant

Tanzania with 44 million hectares of arable land, plenty of surface and underground water and research institutions of world fame will easily become Africa’s big producer of vegetables and fruits if these resources will be put to optimal use.

The Regional Director Eastern and Southern Africa of the World Vegetable Centre, Dr  Gabriel Rugalema, said in an interview that if all agricultural stakeholders will collectively and seriously  focus on research, distribution of seeds and production vegetables and fruits Tanzania will easily become Africa’s huge producer of the two.

“For centuries crops in Africa have lacked research. So this centre was established here in Arusha to collect, process and store indigenous fruit, vegetable, spice, supplement seeds and finally work closely with agricultural stakeholders in order to produce improved seeds for rewarding horticultural farming,” said Dr Rugalema.

The centre has been asked by the government to research on parent stock and distributed seeds to Tanzania Research Institute (Tari), Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA), Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (Tosci) and other private partners for putting seeds on the market.

He explained that Africa has thousands of indigenous traditional vegetable and fruit seeds that have not been unearthed for research and distribution.

On reforms in the agriculture sector, he said “these efforts are praise worth because they will lead to national food security, will raise disposable income of the people and create jobs for women and youth.”

The centre’s Seed Researcher, Mr Jeremiah Sigalla, said the researches undertaken by the centre are beneficial to Tanzania and other African countries.

“We have in our seed bank over 4,000 seed varieties.  We have 400 varieties of spinach seed and 1,600 varieties of okra and the number of varieties increases annually because we collect parent seeds from different African countries,” Mr Sigalla explained.

The Centre’s Coordinator of Training and Extension Services, Mr Hassan Mndinga, said the centre trains applicants from African countries and beyond Africa.

“We train people from different African countries beyond our continent on how to improve health by growing and taking vegetables and fruits in the most beneficial way,” he explained.

Out of Tanzania’s 44 million ha of arable land, only 24 per cent was being utilized by 2010 and experts say the situation has not changed drastically.

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