18 September 2012

Tanzania: Farmers to Get Improved Sweet Potato Seeds

UP to 400 farmers in Kigamboni, Temeke and other districts in the Coast Region stand to get improved seedlings for cultivation of orange fleshed sweet potatoes in an ambitious project to persuade farmers to plant the vegetable for food and capture the export market.

Temeke Extension Officer, Mr Stephen Mruma told the 'Daily News' over the weekend during a Farmer's Day event organised by the Tanzania Agriculture Productivity Programme (TAPP) that they had recently acquired and identified better variety in collaboration with the Kibaha Research Centre.

"We plan to avail the farmers with the seeds sometime in March next year. At the moment we are working on multiplying the seedlings to accommodate 400 plus farmers as a first phase and later reach out to more," he said.TAPP is part of the Feed the Future initiative funded by the United States and is increasing incomes for smallholder farmers, improving nutrition and expanding markets through agricultural innovation.

This is the US government's Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative. Mr Mruma said that investing in orange fleshed potatoes made sense because the crop is a rich source of Vitamin A for the farmer and useful cash crop for the local market as well as for exports.

At the Farmers' Day that was held in Kimbiji in Kigamboni, over 150 farmers from neighbouring villages got a rare opportunity of getting hands on training on the best practices of planting potatoes as well as seeing the different varieties. The Temeke District Commissioner, Ms Sophia Mjema told the farmers that they should consider themselves lucky that such a project was coming to them with the aim of improving their health and welfare in general.

Ms Mjema congratulated the farmers for agreeing to start cultivation of the orange fleshed sweet potatoes urging them to ensure that they feed their children and make the most of its nutritious values. "Evidence shows that even village dwellers have gotten hooked on fried foods like chips and are generally not eating properly and that is one of the reasons why they are always tired. I would like to come back next year and see that you have used the best practices but also are eating well," she said.

Tanzania expects over the next five years to help an estimated 834,000 vulnerable Tanzanian women, children and family members, mostly smallholder farmers, escape hunger and poverty thanks to the US initiative. According to the Feed the Future website, more than 430,000 children will be reached with services to improve their nutrition and prevent stunting and child mortality.

Significant numbers of additional rural populations will achieve improved income and nutritional status from strategic policy engagement and institutional investments. Temeke District Agricultural and Livestock Officer, Mr Cosmos Kimati said that they encouraged the start of the sweet potato growing in the district and that they would start preparing a budget to buy seeds.

Mr Kimati said that the district was also strategising on how to woo private investors into the project as the public sector isn't able to do it alone. Buturi Investments Limited Managing Director, Mr Peter Lanya, one of the few farmers who has successfully managed to sell 12 containers of sweet potatoes to the Middle East said that the market is there and waiting to be penetrated.

Mr Lanya said that it was his belief that orange sweet potatoes that will be produced in Kigamboni and neighbouring villages alone can be sold in Dar es Salaam and get a market but there was need to build capacity if the farmers were to access international markets.

The five-year Feed the Future Initiative (2009-2014) is significantly increasing rural incomes and employment opportunities for Tanzanians by expanding production and sales of fresh and processed agricultural produce.

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