Field day in Tanzania
ICRISAT-Nairobi organized a field day in Moshi town, Tanzania on 2 July. A total of 235 people (124 men and 111 women) attended. Among them were farmers from the surrounding villages of Moshi Rural district, religious and local business communities, seed companies, and extension and research staff from the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and local food processors.
The event started with a visit to ICRISAT research fields at Miwaleni research site where participants saw a lush and outstanding crop of improved sorghum varieties (Macia, Gadam Hamam, KARI Mtama 1, Sima and Tegemeo), high performing sorghum hybrids, pearl millet (Okoa and Shibe) and blast-resistant varieties of finger millet (U15 and P224). Despite the severe dry spell in the area, crops including maize, sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet demonstrated their resilience to terminal drought.
The participants also visited sorghum farmers’ fields in the Kilacha ward. They were impressed by the performance of sorghum and millets in
the dry season as compared to maize. Later, the District Commissioner of Moshi, Mr Alhaj Musa Samizi and ICRISAT-HOPE project representative Mary Mgonja addressed the gathering at the Kilacha training center. In her welcome speech, Mgonja pointed out that ICRISAT and its partners are committed to improving crop productivity and adaptation to drought so that farmers could soon access improved varieties of crops such as sorghum, pearl and finger millet.
indicated that ICRISAT through the project is exploring market links and options for sorghum and millet farmers, which will allow them to sell their surplus grain or crop residue. The Tanzanian government buys sorghum through the Strategic Grain Reserves and World Food Program (Purchase for Progress). She made assurances that ICRISAT will continue to strengthen research capacity in the region for sustenance. ICRISAT is in fact supporting the training of post-graduate students, including Separatus Kamutu, Phyllis Muturi and Justin Ringo, who were present at the field day. She appealed to the district officials to consider improving facilities at Miwaleni research site since this site can be a center of excellence for dry land research.
In his address, Alhaj Musa Samizi indicated that the three districts of Same, Mwanga and Moshi Rural are already experiencing the impact of climate change such as the combination of droughts and floods similar to the conditions in 2009, which caused food shortages in over 45,000 households. He stressed that drought resistant crops such as sorghum and millet are better able to cope with climate change and need to be grown by farmers to mitigate hunger. The District Commissioner told the farmers and councilors that they can start producing enough food as improved varieties are now available. He also declared that the government will not distribute relief food starting 2011. Samizi encouraged farmers to follow good agronomic practices including water harvesting. In his closing remarks, he thanked ICRISAT for choosing Tanzania as one of the countries for implementing the HOPE project and also revitalizing activities in the Miwaleni site for dry land research.
The attendees had an opportunity to see commercial products displayed by the local processors and taste different foods made with sorghum and millet. Forty-three farmers have been contracted by a seed company to produce 40 tons of sorghum variety Macia, which will be further used to scale up the production of improved varieties. This change was brought about by a single Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) process established in 2009 by the Moshi District Agricultural and Livestock Development office.
ICRISAT expects even better impact as the project helps to further increase the distribution of PVS crops.