Arusha. Tanzania has excelled in experimental trials of high yielding and disease resistant potato varieties under a climate smart agriculture programme aimed to improve food security.
Three of 14 varieties brought into the country by the International Potato Centre (CIP) for field trials in Lushoto district did well and two of them will soon be released toThese are Unica, locally known as Mkanano, and Shangii which will be released to farmers for cultivation after proving resilience to climate vagaries.
The third variety, Mvono, is now with the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (Tosci) for national performance trials in the southern highlands regions.
"Mvono is being tested for the first time in the world. Its first field trials are taking place in Tanzania", said Dr Stephano Sebastian, the principal agricultural research officer with HORTI-Tengeru.
Experimental trials and promotion of potato is one of the projects implemented within the East African region under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) research programme on climate change, agriculture and food security (CCAFS).
Within the region, the global programme, launched in 2010, encompasses Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
In Tanzania, the focus is to develop more resilient potato varieties with higher yields.
Dr Sebastian said the project involving 600 families in five villages in Lushoto district, will ultimately phase out 'Kidinya', a low yielding local potato variety which is susceptible to blight disease.
"To address these issues, the CGIAR research programme on climate change, agriculture and food security initiated a study aimed at developing more resilient potato varieties that can give higher yields", he said.
Besides the Peru-based CIP, other partners in the project include the Selian Agricultural Research Institute (Sari), Lushoto district council, YARA Tanzania Limited, NGOs and the Lushoto farmers.
Based on demand by Lushoto farmers, the project also sought to develop potato varieties with better culinary traits, the expert explained in an interview.
The trials were carried out at Kwesine, Boheloi, Maringo, Kwekitui and Milungui villages with experimental materials comprising of six advanced and heat tolerant clones from CIP.
"The origin of the project stemmed from addressing the vagaries of weather. One of the challenges facing the farmers is unpredictability of rains, viral diseases and knowledge deficiency", says CCAFS project leader, Dawit Solomon.
Under the programme, in Rwanda farmers are turning to locally-tailored climate forecasts to help them make farming and investment decisions, he said.