11 November 2012

Tanzania: Breeders' Rights Law to Help Farmers

Photo: UNICEF/Patricia Esteve
A recent survey shows that Tanzanian children suffer from malnutrition with approximately 69% of them being anemic.

DESPITE having a good law which encourages plant breeding, quality and highly competitive breeding institutions, Tanzania imports much of its seeds because of Plant Breeders Rights law.

But now plant breeders, farmers and private companies are heaving a sigh of relief, thanks to the passing of a Plant Breeders Right Bill by Parliament last week which will soon become law. "It will allow private companies to get new hybrid seeds developed by researchers at Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in south eastern part of the country," said Principal Researcher Omari Mponda.

Dr Mponda said that for many years, local scientists have developed many hybrid seeds in a quest to improve yields and fight attacks by pests and diseases. The researchers also sought to improve nutrition in a country where food security is still a problem. World Food Programme's Global Hunger Index lists the east African nation as alarming with 44 per cent of the country's population classified as undernourished -- particularly on the part of children.

In all, WFP's GHI ranks the country number 10 for the worst affected countries with chronically undernourished children, beating only Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa.

"This new law will enable commercial companies to acquire them and supply them to farmers many of which are still struggling with traditional varieties which are low yielding and prone to insect and disease attacks," Dr Mponda said.

Another researcher who is currently a doctorate student at Free State University in South Africa, Fortunatus Kapinga, also applauded the move saying that local farmers and private seed companies should now embrace new hybrid seeds.

"This new law will make sure that our farmers can now benefit from hybrid seeds which local researchers have successfully developed over the past nine to 10 years," Mr Kapinga noted.

He added that more advanced foreign technologies will be introduced. The country imports much of the seeds planted by farmers despite having more than eight agriculture research stations countrywide which have developed a number of hybrid seeds. The country produces only 13,828 metric tonnes of hybrid seeds per year, against the demand of 120,000 tonnes.

The new Plant Breeders Rights Bill will allow private companies reproduce seeds in abundance using master seeds produced by research centres and institutions under the ministry.

The former minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, said that the government's Agriculture Seeds Agency will increase production of hybrid seeds from 1,881 tonnes during the 2010/11 season to 4,000 tonnes this year.

Prof. Maghembe told Parliament during the just ended budget session that an agreement between ASA and the Prisons Department will enable production of 3,000 tonnes of hybrid seeds while another 15,000 tonnes will be produced by private companies.

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