Dar es Salaam. Mbarali, the second largest district in Mbeya Region after Chunya, is set to increase paddy production because of growing agricultural mechanisation that is targeting smallholder growers. Mechanisation is championed by the Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB).
Smallholders are Tanzania’s main growers of paddy and the government asserts in the National Rice Development Strategy Phase-II (NRDS-II) “around 90 percent of Tanzania’s rice production takes place under smallholder system. The sizes of rice farms range from 0.5 to 3 hectares (ha), with an average farm size of 1.3 ha.”
A Mbarali paddy grower who attended the just- ended 45th Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF), Mr Amos Mwangulube, said in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the morale of paddy growers in their district has increased because 15 combine harvesters received by Nguvu Kazi ya Wanavala Cooperative society will be helpful for small paddy growers during harvesting time.
“We are very optimistic because we can visualise that laborious harvesting of rice is coming to an end in our area. We shall no longer lose our paddy in farms. The morale is high,” he declared, adding that there is a possibility of having the machines seconded to other areas lie Kyela District.
The TADB disbursed Sh950 million in a soft loan to purchase the combine harvesters that were handed over to the cooperative by the Agriculture minister, Prof Adolf Mkenda, last month.
“I attended the Saba Saba fair because we are looking for market for our rice in Dar es Salaam where it is popular. We have relatives here. We also plan to look for wholesalers and retailers in Dodoma because it has a growing population,” Mr Mwangulube said, adding that he has a six-hectare farm in their family valley and has been growing paddy for the past three decades.
Anangisye Mwangomale also praised the efforts by TADB towards increasing paddy production in Mbeya Region, saying growers were thrilled by the arrival of the harvesters. Morogoro and Mbeya regions are Tanzania’s major paddy growing regions and the government says the average paddy yields in the 2016/17 season in the two regions were 4.0 and 2.2 tonnes per hectare respectively.
Mbarali District has the highest percentage of power tillers use (3.1 percent) in the region, followed by Mbeya Rural District with 0.9 percent. Mbarali also sits second in the use of oxen-pulled ploughs (17.2 percent) as Momba District leads with 29.2 percent.
The chairman of Umoja wa Wakulima wa Mpunga Mbarali, Mr Wilbart Mbwiga, said over the phone yesterday that the harvesters will be used equitably among members during the harvesting season.
“What is important is that the machines should be used very carefully to promote productivity and ensure that they last long,” he said.
Mr Mwangomale, a prominent paddy grower, who harvests seven bags in a hectare, exuded confidence that rice production will increase significantly in the next seasons.
In the NRDS II, the government says “from 1995 to 2014 the area under rice production at national level increased from 57 to 76 percent.
Increased production has gradually reduced the need for imports and rice-self sufficiency had been attained in the recent years.”
The government names Shinyanga, Tabora, Mwanza, Mbeya, Rukwa and Morogoro Regions as producers of 70 percent of Tanzania’s rice. Other rice producing regions are Songwe, Katavi, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Kigoma, Manyara, Iringa, Mara and Tanga.