CONSERVATION agriculture should be given priority for improved livelihoods and the conservation of natural resources in Tanzania.
Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute Uyole Centre (TARI-Uyole) researchers have come up with a strategy to promote conservation agriculture due to climate change and environmental degradation, including shifting cultivation.
The technology, which focuses on soil conservation and environmental protection, will help increase agricultural production in drought prone areas and ensure food security in farming communities.
The coordinator of research and innovation at TARI-Uyole, Dr Ndabhemeye Mlengera, said conservation agriculture was promoted to increase crop production and environmental sustainability.
It involves the use of organic soil management practices such as reduced tillage, mulching and leguminous crops.
He told the 'Daily News' at the centre on Tuesday that Tanzania had 94 million hectares, out of which 44 million were suitable for agriculture and only 10.1 million hectares (equivalent to 23 per cent of suitable land) was currently cultivated.
According to him, the conservation agriculture technology also reduces production costs and increases farmers' incomes.
"TARI-Uyole Centre has planned to promote conservation agriculture in Tanzania. The technology has already been applied in some parts of the country, including Mbeya, Njombe, Songwe, Kilimanjaro and Arusha.
The technology also prevents diseases and pests," Dr Mlengera said. On the African continent, 65 per cent of farmers use hand tools for agricultural activities, while 25 per cent and 10 per cent uses animal and tractor power respectively.
On average smallholder farmers cultivate between 0.2 and 2.0 hectares per season. In Tanzania, the level of agricultural mechanisation is still low, since only 24 per cent of farmers use animal power for agricultural activities, while 13 per cent of farmers use tractor power.
Agricultural engineering sub-programme section of conservation agriculture and climate smart agriculture expert at TARI Uyole Aldoph Katunzi said the technology had the potential to control soil erosion and facilitate climate change adaptation.
Mr Katunzi mentioned some of the conservation agricultural challenges as free grazing of livestock on conservation agriculture fields, conventional methods of land preparation through burning of crop residues and limited number of extension staff with Conservation Agriculture (CA) knowledge.