YAM and taro have been cultivated in Tanzania by smallholder farmers and over 25 percent of regions have been engaged in these crops. The yam is a staple food in many tropical countries, particularly in Africa, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.
Yams have brown tough skins and the flesh can vary in colour , anything from white to yellow to purple - depending on the variety. The term 'yam' is often used in American to describe the sweeter, orange sweet potato.
The health benefits of taro include its ability to improve digestion, lower your blood sugar levels, prevent certain types of cancers, protect the skin, boost vision health, increase circulation, decrease blood pressure, aid the immune system and prevent heart disease, while also supporting muscle and nerve health.
The crops are contributing in food security. Unfortunately, they have been forgotten in the research domain.
The accessibility of improved varieties is very difficult and no mechanism has been set in order to easily access the varieties, according to researchers.
Project Principal investigator of the two year Yam and Taro Project from The University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Gladness Temu have conducted a two-year research on the two crops with the aim of using tissue culture technology and improvement of existing varieties aimed, at increasing the production and distribution of improved varieties.
Speaking to farmers of Kiwambo village in Mkuranga District recently when establishing demonstration plots of the two crops for groups of farmers, Dr Temu said that the crops are highly tolerant to drought and climate change, compared to other crops.
"We expect the demonstration plots would help farmers to learn and produce improved varieties to many farmers within the area," Dr Temu told reporters and farmers of Kawambo village.
Dr Temu added that yam and taro are among the root crops that have many benefits, adding that yam can be roasted, boiled, fried, baked, pounded and milled etc.
Yams can also be processed into various food products used for industrial and culinary purposes. In Tanzania, yam and taro have been cultivated in coastal region, Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Morogoro and Zanzibar.
The crops have been used for income and for food but in Tanzania it is cultivated in few regions and only 25 percent of Tanzania regions cultivated the crops in very minimum.
Kiwambo village officer, Ms Dorine Kiromo said that cassava is the main crop cultivated in the village for food and income. She said that many smallholders' farmers in the coastal region are engaging themselves in the cultivation of root crops as the main food especially in holy month of Ramadan.
"We thank UDSM and Tanzania Agricultural Research institute (TARI) Kibaha and other research institutes for their efforts in ensuring they bring improved varieties of yam and taro to smallholder farmers in the village.
We assure you (researchers) the varieties distributed to many farmers in the village increase the production of yam and taro in the village for food and income, she said."
She explained that many farmers cannot distinguish between yam and taro due to lack of awareness of the crops and poor farming methods. Dr Temu added: "I decided to conduct research on yam and taro to improve their varieties and to create awareness to farmers.
The crops highly withstand climate change and are resistant to droughts compared to other crops." The crops are not only cultivated for food but increasingly they are also becoming industrial crops through processing into highvalue products.
Yams are grown throughout Africa, but Nigeria is the world's most prolific producer, exporting to 70 per cent of the world market. The project is funded by Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) started in 2015.
Dr Temu also said that Biotechnology (micropropagagtion) is a rapid tool to produce massive disease free planting materials thus improve productivity. Zuhura Sultani, farmer from Kiwambo village, Mkuranga district in Coastal region said that many farmers in the village are not cultivating yam crop due to awareness and poor farming methods.
"Yam and taro are cultivated by few farmers in the village. We expect to increase production of the crops through these demo plots," Ms Sultani said. Kiwambo village extension officer, Mr Benedikto Kazumba said that most of farmers in the village cultivated cassava as food and cash crop.
"We are happy to have yam and taro improved varieties that would help to increase food and income to smallholder farmers in the village," he said. He said that this is a special opportunity to Kiwambo village people. We expect to maintain and inspects daily this yam and Taro demo plots in order to increase food production and income to our villagers.
Another farmer, Ramadhani Magenge said that over half of farmers in Kiwambo village cultivate cassava for food and for income. He said that yam and taro would help in increasing income and food production to many farmers in the village.
Dr Temu advised farmers in the village to adhere to the directive given by researchers to maintain beat farming methods in order to increase food production and income. Agronomist from -Kibaha research institute Ms Mary Ndomba said that the technology used in these crops is tissue culture technology.
"Tissue Culture technology is used to modify crops in order to have improved varieties that are resistant to drought and pests and diseases," she said. Yam contains starch, which makes them an excellent source of carbohydrate. It contains dietary fibre and higher protein contents than the majority of the tropical root crops.
It also contains thiamine, calcium, niacin, manganese, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, copper and riboflavin. Although they are considered to be a starchy vegetable, yams are made up of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber allowing slow uptake to keep blood sugar levels even, giving it the nod as a low glycemic index food.
The vitamin A that is converted into beta-carotene when eating yams is not as spectacular as those in sweet potatoes are, but the antioxidants they provide are exceptional.
The vitamin A in yams has other functions, such as maintaining healthy mucous membranes and skin, heightening night vision, supporting healthy bone development and providing protection from lung and mouth cancers.
Yams are a good source of vitamin C- 27 per cent of the daily value for fighting infections such as colds and flu and quick wound healing, anti-aging, strong bones and healthy immune function.
It also provides good amounts of fiber, potassium, manganese and metabolic B vitamins. Other nutrients in yams include thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin, folic acid, pantothenic acid and niacin.
Copper (which produces healthy red blood cells), calcium, potassium (supporting optimal cell and body fluids), iron, manganese (a component in the superpotent antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase) and phosphorus are body-beneficial minerals found in yams.
Read the original article on Daily News.
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