FOR many decades, farmers in the country have been producing crops on their farms without making soil analysis, ending up getting meagre incomes from their sweat.
Tanzanian farmers in an effort to increase income through agriculture, should use these opportunities that are emerging to cultivate many types of crops so that they can achieve great success through the agricultural sector which employs many people.
The Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) has prioritised soil analysis on climate change adaptation and food security in efforts to improve crop yields among farmers in the country.
Acting TARI Director for Research and Innovation, Dr Furaha Mrosso, told the ‘Daily News’ in an interview that soil analysis is a crucial component that enables farmers to know the type of soil and suitable crops to be produced.
“TARI has prioritised soil analysis on climate change adaptation and food security in efforts to improve crop yields among farmers in the country. Soil analysis is a crucial component that enables farmers to know the type of soil and suitable crops to be produced,” he said.
He further said that TARI has about 17 centres across the country. This comes after the government increased the budget to the Ministry of Agriculture, including reducing the price of fertilisers, its inputs as well as encouraging the private sector to invest and make agriculture start providing decent jobs for young people and women by significantly increasing the budget.
Presenting the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture for the year 2023/2024, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Hussein Bashe said that the Ministry will continue to design and implement various strategies to ensure the agricultural sector reaches a growth of 10 per cent by the year 2030 and build a solid foundation to protect our economy towards the year 2050.
TARI Maruku Manager, Dr Mpoki Shimwela, on the other hand, has revealed that the government had allocated about 500m/- during 2023/2024 financial year for the construction of a tissue culture laboratory. The tissue culture laboratory will cover two major crops, namely bananas and coffee, which will in turn greatly benefit farmers who will get improved culture seedlings at a reduced price of between 500/- and 1,000/- compared to the present price of between 2,500/- and 3,000/- for each seedling, he said.
Kagera Regional Commissioner (RC), Ms Fatma Mwassa, on her side, has tasked Extension Officers to utilise the conducive environment, including transport facilities provided by the government to reach farmers in their villages instead of staying in offices.
“Extension Officers play a key role in revamping the economy. The government recently provided about 342 motor cycles that cost over 1bn/- to enable Extension Officers to reach the farmers and advise them how they can increase productivity of cash and food crops,” she said.
Kagera region has conducive weather suitable for production of various crops that were in high demand, including avocado, maize, sunflower and sugarcane. We should exploit suitable markets in the neighbouring countries where such crops are in high demand. The region is endowed with fertile soil and untapped valleys suitable for irrigation schemes and has potential to increase the annual production of bananas from 600,000 tonnes to over 1 million tonnes, Ms Mwassa stated.
Kagera region shares borders with four East African Community (EAC) nations, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya across Lake Victoria. Ms Mwassa tasked youths to exploit available agricultural opportunities instead of blaming the government for unemployment, assuring them that the agricultural sector offers many employment opportunities.
For many decades Kagera region has been identified in the minds of most Tanzanians as the land of banana and coffee, while the agriculture sector has consistently been dominant in the regional economy.
However, several villages in the region were recently attacked by the banana disease known as Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), which made authorities to caution farmers to take necessary precautions, including uprooting the affected banana trees. The outbreak of BXW and other crop diseases has caused panic among the farmers.
Banana is part of the staple diet in Tanzania and one of the ten main food crops in the country. In Tanzania, most of the bananas (over 70 per cent) are grown in Kagera, Kilimanjaro and Mbeya regions. Other regions producing a significant amount of bananas are Morogoro, Kigoma, Mara, Arusha, Manyara, Ruvuma, Tanga and Coast.
Bananas and plantains form the staple food while over 900,000 farming households in the country are engaged in banana production. In Tanzania, bananas production hit a record of 3,407 million tonnes in the 2018/2019 season. There was minimal growth in compared to the preceding season when 3,396 million tonnes of bananas were produced. In 2021, banana production in Tanzania was 3.59 million tonnes.
The global export value of the banana trade was estimated to be 8.9 billion US dollars before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a retail value standing between 20 billion US dollars and 25 billion US dollars annually.
At 8.9 billion US dollars, bananas grown for export are only a fraction of the 44.1 billion US dollars in annual banana and plantain production, in fact, bananas are the fourth most valuable global crop after rice, wheat and milk.
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data indicate that nearly nine-tenths of the world’s bananas are eaten in poor countries, where at least 400 million people rely on them for 15-27 per cent of their daily calories.