Dar es Salaam. The distribution of improved seed varieties has helped to improve food security and incomes to maize farmers in Kagera and Iringa regions.
The testimonials were given by different farmers in both regions who were visited to see the achievements of the yields improvement project implemented by the government and private sector.
The project, funded by Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), was aimed at improving maize farming through improved seeds, proper storage and marketing.
Farmers who spoke to The Citizen in Kagera and Iringa regions said the adoption of new maize seed varieties, which were distributed to replace traditional seeds, have huge impacts, mainly boosting yields.
Ms Joyce Mpagike, a maize farmer in Mufindi District, Iringa Region, said the adoption of new maize seeds has changed the lives of people, through boosting incomes and food security.
Ms Mpagike who has just harvested her maize through improved USH5210 seeds generated by Uyole Agriculture Institute, said yields improved by more than six folds.
“I used to harvestless than five bags of maize per acre of farming but through new developed seeds, I can now harvest up to twenty bags of maize on the same piece of land,” she said in an interview with The Citizen.
She said most farmers depended on seasonal rains for farming and when there was insufficient rain, crop failure was normal. However, the improved seeds have also helped farmers to mitigate the consequences of climate change.
Ms Bekteba Mlawa, a farmer at Ifunda in Ihemi Ward said she received the new seed varieties from BRiTEN (Building Rural Incomes Through Enterprise), a grantee of Agra, of which she said has had a huge impact on her farming activities.
Ms Mlawa, who has been involved in maize farming over the last three years, said she harvested 30 bags of maize in her one acre farm, from which she previously harvested five bags.
“I harvested 60 bags of maize from two acres of land of which I sold 55 bags and kept five for food,” she said.
She said she spent the income to improve the condition of her house, install electricity and build a modern toilet.
According to Mr Michael Amson, an agronomist at BRiTEN Tanzania, distributors of improved maize seeds, there are three varieties of seeds which are currently distributed.
He mentioned other improved seeds as SY634 produced by Sygenta and Seedco 627 produced by Seedco Tanzania.
He said yields for Seedco 627 have the capacity of producing up to 35 bags of maize per acre and farmers who applied them have managed to harvest up to 30 bags during their first harvests this year.
“Traditional seeds used to generate up to 10 bags per acre but we have seen this achievements from new seeds as the yields have improved by more than three times,” he said.
He said more than 2,000 farmers have already been provided with the new seed varieties. This was after they were trained on best farming practices, how to reduce post-harvest losses and proper storage of harvested maize.
“We have received a good response from farmers and we believe they are willing to change,” Mr Amson said.
He said farmers have already formed groups that help them conduct joint efforts of seeking for markets, hence helping to bring about stability of prices and incomes.
Ifunda is part of the areas in the Southern Highlands implementing the Farm to Market Alliance project under the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot)-Ihemi Cluster funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, World Food Programme and Agra.
The project, which is targeting to improve maize value chain is currently implemented in Iringa, Njombe and Ruvuma regions.
Meanwhile, Ms Dotto Sweke, an agricultural officer at Mushasha Village in Misenyi District, Kagera Region said Kagera was one of the regions benefiting from Tija Tanzania project, aimed at improving maize yields.
There are two improved maize seeds in the region, namely, TZS 838 and TZM 523 distributed by Saba Agro.
“Farmers have been comparing their harvests, season to season, and they used to put blame on climatic conditions without knowing that the real problem was the type of seeds they were using,” she says.
According to her, they have established demonstration farms in most targeted villages as a way of ensuring that farmers acquire skills on modern farming practices.
“The improved seeds have been received well by farmers and they have liked them because they are resistant to drought,” she said.
She said the number of orders for improved seeds have been coming from different parts of the district as benefiting farmers have impressed their fellow to start using new seeds.
Dr Magdalena William, PhD, a senior researcher at Maruku Agriciltural Institute said the adoption of improved seeds was vital for improving income and food security.
Speaking with The Citizen, Dr William said apart from maize, the institute has also developed new seeds for beans, which has also improved farmers yields and income.
She said they have distributed different varieties of beans to farmers in Kagera including Lyamungo 90, Serian 97 and Uyole not only to improve yields but also nutrition problem.
“As you are aware that despite of being a food basket, Kagera region has a problem of malnutrition,” she said.
She said the new developed beans are rich in both iron and zinc, rich in vitamins that are necessary for improving nutrition of pregnant women and children.
Mr Salvatory Mulokozi, a farmer at Kenyana village in Kilimilile ward, Misenyi district said since they adopted the new maize seeds, their lives have automatically changed.
Mr Mulokozi said since banana is no longer a staple food due to diseases and climate, maize is now becoming the main food in Kagera region.
“Previously, it was hard to see a person in Kagera region using maize flour. Those who were doing so, did it secretly because it was associated with hunger or poverty,” he said.
Mr Mulokozi said this is his first harvest but he sees more yields than during the time when he was using unimproved seeds.
He said the TIJA Tanzania project has also trained them to practice modern farming of which has helped to improve yields to more than 20 bags of maize per acre.
He said the new development has not only improved the quantity of produced maize, but also nutrition and incomes.
“Maize farming has brought change to my life as I have managed to pay fees for my kids, buy clothes, books and he recently bought a power tiller which also boosts his income through farming other villagers’ farms,” he said.
However, he said climate change remained a major obstacle in maize farming as prolonged drought reduces yields.
Another farmer from the same village Ms Lilian Chachali said she was farming cassava, maize and beans but she sees maize as a cash-cow than other crops.
“We were using traditional seeds which have had low yields but since the coming of TIJA Tanzania project, things have changed and we are really smiling,” she said in an interview at his village.
She said lack of capital; farming implements and climate change have remained the major challenges to farmers not only in Misenyi district but also Kagera region in general.