THE newly introduced agricultural technology is changing lives of the rice farmers in Kilosa and Mvomero districts of Morogoro region. It has helped remove several challenges facing the agricultural sector by providing possible solutions using modern technology.
Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy for the farmers in the two districts. It employs almost 80 per cent of the population. One of the primary constraints to increased productivity and profitability stems from the limited use of modern farming technology, equipment, and inputs. For example, although effective irrigation technology is available, agriculture continues to rely heavily on fragile rain-fed systems focused on paddy rice production.
The use of modern equipment could also make harvests more efficient and help to move produce to market more quickly and in better condition. Finally, modern agricultural inputs such as seeds, agro-chemicals and fertilisers can dramatically reduce losses. By utilising proven modern farming techniques and science-based solutions, farmers can increase productivity, efficiency and profitability as well as reduce malnutrition and enhance food security.
These techniques also pay for themselves. The increased productivity, even for small land holders, means that they can afford many of the needed inputs. For more expensive equipment, farmers have the option of pooling their resources to share ownership.
As explained by the officer, the SRI technology facilitates paddy farmers to yield 350,000 kg per quarter acre as opposed to the traditional farming method that produces between 150,000 kg and 190,000 kg per quarter acre in the area. This technology that is implemented in Kilosa and Mvomero district centres on post harvest management and marketing (RIPOMA).
It has been in place for a year now and farmers are witnessing it giving them bumper production. Anna Masele (36) a farmer from Ilonga village and Ilonga ward extension officer, says the rice intensification technology has been very fruitful as it adds value to rice produced for consumption and business, a situation she says, has helped them to stamp out poverty.
"This technology uses little water and little seeds, but it yields bumper production. It has attracted many farmers in Kilosa and Mvomero," she explains. In support, another farmer Lucy Kilungi (38) also from Ilonga Village said previously, a farmer in the area didn't understand the technology that improves rice production, until September last year when RIPOMA project reached their place. She admits, however, that it didn't take long for farmers to understand how rice intensification technology works. She said that the experts told them that this kind of farming rescues post harvest and seeds loss. In her group, they have cultivated five acres of paddy.
She has interesting story: "I ventured into paddy agriculture that uses rice intensification technology because the sector is very productive." She appealed other villagers in Ilonga Ward to embrace this new technology and abandon the traditional system since it is the technology that pays off handsomely. The Morogoro regional Helvetas RIPOMA project officer, Frank Kaminyoge said that The European Union is the one which has funded this project in order to add value chain and prevent post harvest loss of rice products.
The project has been implemented for three years by Helvetas Organisation which was carried out in Tanzania after many researches proved there has been post harvest loss of rice. Researches show big loss of rice reached between 15 to 48 per cent. The Helvetas Tanzania's Assistant country director, Daniel Kalimbia said that the RIPOMA project which is implemented in ten wards of Kilosa and Mvomero districts, targets to reach over 40 villages. The project, according to him, has been implemented by the Helvetas Tanzania for three years under the funding of the European Union at a cost of 4.5 bn/-.
He noted that youth and women play a momentous role in rice and maize farming and, therefore, special attention to empower them with technical, entrepreneurship skills and asset ownership, is urgently needed to reduce poverty, promote job creation and poverty alleviation.
He said that the project intends to benefit 3,000 farming households, 100 groups of farmers. 62 farmers who have been trained on value addition of rice while 4 of them received training on value addition of the crop.
The beneficiaries of the project are 15,000 people living in rural areas, whom according to the official, will start to see their life much improved through a sustainable income and improved food security. By 2020 the project will construct six warehouses for storage and marketing. In official launching of the project, Morogoro Regional Commissioner (RC), Dr Steven Kebwe said that rice sub-sector is fast growing in Tanzania with an average growth rate of 8.2 per cent per annum.
However, adding that this sub-sector especially in Morogoro region is hampered by several challenges. He said that this includes reliance on rain due to lack of sufficiency irrigation infrastructures, low productivity, high post harvest loss, insufficient storage and processing, poor road infrastructure, limited access to affordable finance and credits and weak market linkages.
Experts say cases of success proponents of SRI claim success in the increased yields, water saving and reducing production cost, while increasing income of the farmers. Globally, the project, according to the experts has already benefited farmers in 40 countries.
On the other hand, critics show the productivity of SRI is under debate between supporters and those who criticise the system. Critics of SRI suggest that claims of yield increase in SRI are due to unscientific evaluations. They object that there is a lack of details on the methodology used in trials and a lack of publications in the peerreviewed literature.
The question at hand seems to be: is SRI better at delivering increased yield and other benefits to rice farmers, such as healthier soils, when compared with recommended best management practices for rice production?