21 September 2012

Tanzania: Sweet Potato Pesticide on Cards

A LOCAL agrochemical and pharmaceutical manufacturer, Bytrade, has committed itself to work with the Kibaha Research Institute in developing a pesticide that will do away with pests that attack sweet potatoes.

The Bytrade Director, Dr Salum Diwani, told the 'Daily News' during a Farmers' Day in Kimbiji, Kigamboni late last week that they have produced Confidor, a pesticide that is aimed at killing pests that attack sweet potatoes but they needed researchers to work on it before it is commercialized.

I am very serious about the prospects of working with the Kibaha Institute for I believe that the new product can help reduce the problem that many farmers face with the varieties that are available," he said. Dr Diwani said that Bytrade has for a number of years now been producing pesticides for coffee and that this diversion was an interesting challenge.

The Kibaha Research Institute Plant Breeder -- Root Crops, Dr Kiddo Mtunda, said that she was more ready to work with Bytrade. Dr Mtunda said that should the pesticide tests prove to be a success, it would be a godsend to farmers who at the moment use shifting cultivation methods to do away with the pests.

"Most farmers rely on traditional methods where they leave the ground barren for two seasons and the pests die away or the cracks of the seedbed are covered after the potatoes start growing inside the soil," she said. She explained that the tests have to be done for at least two years to be satisfied that the manufactured product works and doesn't cause additional problems instead of solving them.

Meanwhile, Dr Diwani said that the country still had a long way into the organic market and that farmers shouldn't be pushed into it when there was so much that wasn't in place. He said that the last time he checked, only 3 per cent of all arable land in the country was being utilized for organic farming.

He said that what made it difficult to go into organic farming was that there was lack of pesticides needed for it and even more difficult was the guarantee of getting compensation for any losses that may be accrued by the buyer.According to key results from International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements survey on organic agriculture worldwide 2012, Tanzania as of 2008 had a coverage of 72,665ha of organic farming amounting to a share of 0.2 per cent of total agricultural land.

In Africa, there were 1.08 million hectares of certified organic agricultural land constituting about 3 per cent of the world's organic agricultural land. The report cited that the countries with the most organic land are Uganda (228,419 hectares), Tunisia (175,066 hectares) and Ethiopia (137,196 hectares).

"The majority of certified organic produce in Africa is destined for export markets; in Uganda the export value for organic products was 37m US dollars in 2009/2010," the report read in part. Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM) is a member-based national umbrella organization registered in June 2005. There are 89 subscribed institutional members that include farmer associations and cooperatives, NGOs and FBOs, organic operators, researchers and trainers.

TOAM aims to provide coordination and facilitation to organic sector stakeholders in the whole of Tanzania and envisions a vibrant, sustainable, and mutually beneficial organic sector in Tanzania.

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