11 February 2013

Tanzania: Tissue Culture May Save Banana Farmers

Photo: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

Morogoro — Tanzania has been urged to transfer Banana tissue culture technology to small-scale farmers, if they want to overcome the challenges that deteriorate the agriculture industry as well as boosting productivity and production.

Agricultural scientists have singled out Banana tissue culture technology as the only option that if could be exploited efficiently in the agricultural sector, could save commercial farming and hence boost the country's forex earnings.

Speaking to East African Business Week in Morogoro recently during the journalists' familiarization tour which was organized by Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA), the Programme Coordinator for Africa, Mr. Bernie Jones said; "In order to move local farming into commercial one, Tanzania has to transfer Banana tissue culture technology to small-scale farmers."

According to Jones, studies done in Uganda indicate that by using tissue culture banana planting materials, the gross gain from bananas increase to Ush3.5m ($1,315.798) per hectare per year as opposed to using suckers with a gross of Ush2.3m ($864.6885) from each hectare per year.

Tissue culture is a biotechnological tool which uses fragments of tissue from animal or plant in a culture to multiply, change size, form, or function.

The technology is used for mass production of planting materials, production of virus-free plants, plant breeding purposes, conservation, and multiplication of crops and livestock.

A Laboratory Technologist at Sokoine University of Agriculture, Ms Hellen Mdije explained that a single Banana tissue which takes up to nine-week to mature is able to produce about 60 Banana plants at a time.

Ms Mdije said that what farmers can produce from Banana tissue culture plants are huge and healthier compared to local plant which most of the time are weak against disease and harsh climate condition.

The region is struggling to modify its farming method into commercial and or in a modern way, however poor farming knowledge, lack of technology, diseases, harsh climate condition which caused by the climate change stand as a hindrance to most farmers.

Small-scale farmers in Tanzania which account for 75% of the country's population rates are the most victims of these challenges. An analyst says if the government would be able to transfer the technology to small-scale farmers, will be a big step for the farming industry.

The Director General of the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) Dr Hassan Mshinda was recently quoted by local media as he says that the government should put more funding for research in the agriculture sector.

Mshinda singles out tissue culture as a good example of a simple technology that could be put to better use to enhance the prosperity of the country.

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