15 February 2017

Tanzania: Farmers Need Support of Extension Officers

editorial

A coffee farmer in Mbozi District, Mbeya Region, has urged the government to push researchers who could come up with new crop varieties that withstand effects of climate change. The farmer made the appeal while noting that coffee, which was once a popular crop in the district, was slowly losing its prominence.

He noted that many coffee farmers in Mbozi are at a loss over what to do after the crop, which they have always counted on, started to fail.

This is timely advice and we think that in addition to putting into use the work of researchers, the government needs to revive the system of using extension officers.

Why, if researchers can come up with crop varieties and cultivation systems which can change the environment, that won't help the farmers unless there are experts to educate them on how best to conduct their farming.

In fact, these experts are more needed now to deal with the fast-changing environment. It is discouraging that famers have been left to fend for themselves while most of them have little knowledge on how to conduct their activities.

The availability of advanced technology in agriculture also necessitates the use of extension officers to help farmers cope with the changes.

Lack of competent extension officers has exposed farmers to conmen. In recent years, we have witnessed farmers being sold seeds which don't germinate, fake fertilisers, bogus pesticides which have subjected them to untold losses.

We have also witnessed farmers failing to utilise agricultural inputs and technologies, leading to catastrophic results.

We believe that in addition to increasing vigilance to ensure imported farming inputs are the right ones, extension officers would also protect farmers from being conned by sellers of fake inputs.

Furthermore, extension officers are needed to help farmers apply inputs appropriately so that they maximise their harvests.

ENSURE EQUALITY IN EDUCATION

A story published yesterday by the Mwananchi newspaper has it that a school in Morogoro Region, which had had only two teachers for two years, has now received an addition teacher. That is quite revealing. The said institution, Chohero Primary School in Mvomero District, has over 500 pupils--running from pre-school to Standard Seven level!

The pupil-teacher ratio says one thing loud and clear: the workload teachers at Chohero carry is simply too big. And, two things are for sure--the quality of teaching and that of learning are highly compromised.

It is obvious that there are lessons that teachers skip because of being overwhelmed by too much work. Teachers cannot have time to properly monitor pupils' academic development. Which is to say, the teachers can't assist the young ones as they learn and grow.

With such a school population, how can the teachers control and guide their pupils' extra-curricular activities.

It is quite possible there are schools in the same district that have teachers whose numbers are above their requirements.

So, while there is one teacher somewhere toiling heavily from morning to evening, there is another elsewhere doing much less.

Such inequalities must be addressed if Tanzania is to improve quality of education in all our schools.

Tanzania

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