THE Cotton and Textile Development Programme (CTDP) is promoting 20 high-performing farmers to become village-based agro dealers in-charge of quality inputs.
The dealers, according to CTDP Input Market Manager Ms Lillian Magak, have been trained by experts from the Arusha-based Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) to ensure that they buy seeds on time, and from reliable sources.
"TPRI taught village-based experts on how to identify inputs, improved seeds and fertilizer that are registered for use in Tanzania," said Ms Magak. Due to low yields from different crops, these dealers are expected to be ambassadors and trainers of farmers in their respective districts.
Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food security and Co-operatives Godfrey Zambi who toured two districts of Kwimba and Maswa in Mwanza and Simiyu regions respectively urged agricultural extension officers to help farmers to boost production.
He reiterated the need for village leaders to encourage cotton farmers to stick to contract farming if they are to increase production of the cash crop.
Skills imparted to farmers will enable them access inputs and adopt modern farming methods. The skills will also enable farmers to access additional quality inputs, improved seeds and fertilizer. Last season, the issue of seeds brought controversy between the Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB), Quton Company, the Tanzania Cotton Growers Association (TACOGA) and the Tanzania Cotton Association (TCA).
The objective of the training is to impart knowledge to 62 farmers who receive facilitation from Tanzania Gatsby Trust (TGT). According to Ms Magak, farmers were taught how to handle the pesticides, fertilizer and seeds as well as disposal of empty containers.
The main objective of training the agro dealers is to educate them. Out of the 62 trainee farmers, 28 were from 14 districts of Geita, Biharamulo, Kibondo, Nzega, Maswa, Meatu, Bunda, Bariadi, Busega, Itilima, Shinyanga, Kwimba, Busega, Kakonko and Musoma.
Akisa James, a best cotton farmer in Bunda District, Mara Region, said that the training has helped her acquire more knowledge in dealing with pesticides. "I am optimistic that farmers are now confident in applying pesticides, fertilizer and seeds," she said.
She says the problem which has led to conflict between government and cotton farmers centres on usage of pesticides, fertilizer, manure and seeds. Nashon Maduhu, a cotton farmer from Sima village in Bariadi District in Simiyu Region, applauded Tanzania Gatsby Trust(TGT) and TPRI for introducing the training to farmers. "Many cotton farmers have no knowledge of usage of fertilizer, seeds and pesticides.
The training has broadened their understanding of farm inputs," he said. "Now this will be the start of a new era to fight exploitation of farmers by middlemen who makes super profits without sweat."
Mwanza Regional Agriculture Officer Mr Philipo Mkama said the training important for imparting knowledgte to farmers on usage of pesticides, fertilizer and seeds.
TPRI training coordinator Mr Habibu Mkalanga said that to exploitation of cotton farmers, there should be well-defined inspectorate services. He said since 1979 TPRI was in full control of registration, import of pesticides and monitoring.
According to Mr Mkalanga, TPRI was robbed of its mandate to effectively control pesticides as a result of the enactment of the Plant Protection Act no 13 of 1997.