Arriving in Lushoto through its steep winding road has always brought an interesting feeling. As you climb from the valley in Mombo, one observes that farmers are growing a number of crops in the valleys and between the hills, a sign of diversification on their farms. Signs of off-farm activities such as local trade are also visible.
It all seems okay but when you speak to the residents, they tell you that changes, largely negative, are already happening. Some of the most frequently mentioned changes include decline in crop production, increased soil erosion, declines in forest cover, rising temperatures, drying of rivers, decreasing water in the valleys and irregular rainfall patterns.
Hi pests and diseases, it’s your nasty cousin Fusarium. I’ve got an update for you from banana fields and scientists’ labs in Arusha, Tanzania. Its rather mixed news, I am afraid, as the humans seem to be making some progress.
First, some good news. Coffee prices and profits are down so many farmers are interested to switch to bananas. That could mean a bigger area to attack. And once I can get into the soil in their fields, I can stay for at least sixty years. Isn’t it great?
Fortunately, most farmers still aren’t aware that I am spreading in their irrigation water and even on their pruning tools. And climate change seems to be giving me a helping hand, because farmers are irrigating more since it has been so dry. I’m on the move, and you don’t have to take my word for it. According to Akida Meya, of The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST). “Since last year Fusarium wilt is making a breakthrough in higher lands on Mount Meru above 1,200 meters where it hadn’t gotten a foothold before.”
While it is the number one cash crop for most farmers in Tanzania, maize is getting a serious run for its money from legumes such as beans, groundnut, and soybean which are becoming commercial crops in the cool and hilly terrain of the Southern Highlands. In addition, legumes are also good for tackling malnutrition and soil infertility as they are a cheap source of protein and are able to fix nitrogen from the air into the soils.
This turn of events is being fueled firstly by many years of collaboration between farmers and Tanzanian and international research institutions, a range of development partners, and the private sector that has seen the development and dissemination of improved varieties and good agronomic practices enabling farmers to increase their legume yield by up to four times.
And secondly, a ready market within and in the neighboring countries of Zambia, DR Congo, Malawi, and as far down as South Africa.
On a recent visit to the region, we met a number of farmers whose fortunes have greatly changed and their livelihoods improved as a result of growing legumes.
Daudi Bukuku – from borrowing soap to a respectable bean expert
Daudi Bukuku, a charming 38-year-old farmer has seen his life turnaround from at one time not being able to afford to buy soap for his family to being able to purchase and install a biogas plant at his home reducing the drudgery and time spent by his wife looking for firewood. All thanks to beans.
“Before starting this improved farming of beans, I used to harvest 200 kg of beans from an acre. Life was hard and I was struggling to even buy soap for my family. However, everything changed when I was invited for a training at ARI Uyole on improved farming methods for beans and also received new, improved varieties to try,” Daudi says.
“I learned proper spacing, proper use of fertilizers, and how to harvest and store my crop. I applied everything I had learned and now my yield is up to 700 to 800 kg per acre. My life is so much better as you can see. I have even managed to buy livestock. I have cows, pigs, and chickens. I have also been able to install a biogas plant that converts the waste from my livestock into gas for cooking. I am no longer destroying the environment for firewood. And my wife now respects me as I have made her life easy. She is not struggling with cooking. In twenty minutes, all the food is ready,” he said.
Daudi’s farm acts as a demonstration site to transfer the technologies and knowledge he has gained from the researchers to the surrounding farmers who are inspired with what they see and by the changes he has made in his life. He has also been trained in the production of Quality Declared Seeds and therefore sells seeds of various local and improved varieties to surrounding farmers.
Empowering women and improving marriages
Upendo women’s group in Mchewe village in Mbeya rural district has also seen beans change their lives and their marriages for the better.
According to the chair of the group, Witness Sikayange, the women came together in 2010 to find ways to work together to improve their lives and those of their families through farming.
“We realized we can earn more money from beans compared to maize as we can harvest up to three times a year compared to once a year for maize. We then approached researchers and government extension workers for training on improved farming methods and for improved varieties. And after that, we started commercial farming of beans.
“We are now living a very comfortable life. We all have improved houses and are taking our children to school. And our marriages are even better. Before we used to have a lot of quarrels with our husbands but since we started making our own money, they now respect us as we are not just sitting begging for everything,” Witness said.
The group is also growing Quality Declared Seeds (QDS) for the various varieties of bean released from Uyole Agricultural Research Institute to sell to surrounding farmers and processing pre-cooked beans for sale.
Spreading the success
There are a number of ongoing research initiatives to build on to these successes to spread the benefits of legumes to more farmers: .
Building capacity of research institutes to develop new legume varieties: Efforts to provide farmers with better varieties are also continuing through the Tropical Legumes III (TLIII) project funded by the Gates Foundation and led by ICRISAT.
According to Emmanuel Monyo, the coordinator for this project, TLIII is seeking to improve the breeding capacity of national agricultural research systems and of three CG centers―CIAT, IITA, and ICRISAT to provide farmers with improved high yielding legume varieties to improve the production and productivity of the crops in Sub-Saharan Africa And Asia. Its target is to improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of smallholder farmers through increased legume production.
N2africa – adding soybean to the mix: The ‘Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa,’ project, in short N2Africa, led by Wageningen University in the Netherlands is promoting the production of soybean in the area and introducing the use of seed innoculants and improved farming methods such as higher density planting and use of appropriate fertilizers both organic, inorganic and bio-fertilizers.
According to Fred Baijukya, an agronomist at IITA’s Eastern Africa hub and N2Africa Country Coordinator for Tanzania, the project is currently conducting trials of new improved soybean varieties together with ARI-Uyole and lead farmers to identify the best-performing ones as well as have farmers preferred traits to recommend for release.
The project is also conducting agronomic trials looking into the best agronomic practices that will ensure the farmers get the highest returns including time of planting, spacing and use of fertilizers.
Dissemination of technologies: One challenge that faces research organizations is the wide-scale dissemination and scaling out of new technologies to reach many farmers. Two NGOs―One Acre Fund and Farm Inputs Promotion (FIPs)―are assisting in these efforts. FIPs is providing farmer with small packs of different inputs including seeds for improved varieties and fertilizers. For testing and adoption of those they like and also providing advice on good agronomic practices. FIPS also links farmers to the agro-dealers and private sector companies to ensure supply of the inputs.
One Acre Fund on the other hand is providing loans to farmers to purchase seeds and other inputs such as fertilizers for their farms and training them on better farming practices.
The two development partners are now keen to work with the research teams to help in the dissemination of new legume varieties released from research institutes as well as inputs such as rhizobium and legume fertilizers.
These successful cases show the clear link between research and development, says Jean Claude Rubyongo, a seed system specialist from CIAT and who is also one of the researchers who has been conducting research on bean in the country for many years parenting with ARI-Uyole.
If the successes achieved by Daudi and Upendo can be replicated throughout the region, then clearly the region will transform itself and make a big dent in the efforts to support the country to industrialize and reduce poverty and malnutrition.
The 2nd International Whitefly Symposium (IWS2) is taking place in Arusha, Tanzania, this week, 14-19 February. It has brought together more than a hundred scientists from all over the world to discuss one of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests, the whitefly.
In sub-Saharan Africa, whiteflies are a key threat to food security and efforts to reduce poverty in rural areas as they destroy and spread diseases in important crops of smallholder farmers such as vegetables, beans, cassava, cotton, and sweet potato. The whitefly is the driving force behind the twin cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) pandemics that are currently ravaging cassava production in sub-Saharan Africa.
However, research on whitefly in the continent is inadequate. Apart from a lack of adequate funding, there are very few vector entomologists that could adequately manage the whitefly and associated problems. Therefore scientists from Africa and in particular Tanzania had an opportunity to learn from their colleagues from other countries such as the US, China, Europe, and Australia on new and innovative strategies to control the pest.
According to the meeting chair, Peter Sseruwagi, from the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI), it was important to bring the symposium to Africa as the continent is currently grappling with how to feed its ever-increasing population in
the face of the twin threats of shrinking agricultural land and climate change.
“This meeting brings together renowned whitefly researchers from over 24 countries, the private sector, and students to share and exchange the latest knowledge on the whitefly. They focused especially on CMD and CBSD, the two viral diseases spread by whiteflies and which have ravaged this key staple crop in sub-Saharan Africa,” Sseruwagi said.
The meeting’s co-chair, James Legg, from IITA, added that “Africa is currently struggling with a wave of new viral diseases that are limiting the productivity of the poor smallholder farmers, who are a majority of the population and are the main food producers. These farmers have limited resources to invest in inputs such as pesticides and herbicides. We need to find sustainable science-based solutions to support them in tackling these challenges.”
The symposium is co-organized by MARI and IITA with the University of Dar es Salaam, Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) of Uganda. It is supported by USAID, the USAID-funded Africa RISING initiative, and Zhejiang University, China.
The first International Whitefly Symposium took place in Crete, Greece, in 2013. The Symposium is a series of specialized scientific meetings created out of the merger of the International Bemisia Workshop (IBWS) and the European Whitefly Symposium (EWS).
The African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) — Taking Agronomy to Scale in Cassava-Based Systems in sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to address this challenge and support smallholder farmers to increase production of cassava through developing good agronomic recommendations, recently launched its activities in Tanzania.
Speaking during the project launch at the beginning of this month, Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA’s Director for Central Africa and research leader of natural resource management, said there is a popular myth that cassava does not need fertilizers and can be grown on poor soils. However, if the crop’s production has to increase for food and industrial use, this perception has to change.
This was reiterated by guest of honor Hussein Mansoor, Director of Research and Development at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. He noted that much investment in cassava production had gone into development of improved high-yielding disease-resistant varieties and less on cassava agronomy, and thus the persistent high yield gap.
“With the need to intensify cassava production in areas where population densities have reduced access to land for agriculture and with cassava roots becoming an important raw material for the processing sector, the yield gap needs to be reduced. This requires investments in inputs and labor and access to fresh root markets or value-adding processing markets to ensure that farming households can generate the income required,” he said.
Lawrence Kent from the Gates Foundation said the Foundation was keen on the project due to the link between improved varieties and good agronomic practices.
“By developing improved varieties, we are only addressing half the problem. Low yields in farmers’ fields are a result of poor varieties and poor agronomic practices,” Kent said to the meeting participants via Skype. He also commended the project for its clear link between
research and uptake of the findings and between research and extension and demand-driven approach by working with partners in the cassava value chain to addressing their priorities and concerns.
ACAI seeks to improve cassava yields, cassava root quality, cassava supply to the processing sector, and fertilizer sales, and have over 100,000 households in Nigeria and Tanzania benefiting and creating a value of over US$27 million in the next five years. This value will result from increased yield of cassava and associated crops (due to intercropping), higher starch content, more continuous supply of the roots, and use of fertilizers among others. The project will also be implemented in Uganda and Ghana.
Partners in Tanzania include Cassava Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), Farm Concern International (FCI), Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), and Minjingu Mines & Fertilizers Ltd.
The Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), with support from IITA-led Policy Action for Climate Change Adaptation (PACCA) project, and USAID Feed the Future Enabling Environment for Agriculture (USAID-EEA), organized a national level stakeholder workshop to validate the recently developed Climate Change Mainstreaming Guidelines for the Agricultural Sector in Uganda.
The validation workshop was held on 29 January in Mukono. Stakeholders from government ministries, departments, and agencies, farmer organizations, civil society organizations, private sector, development partners, research institutions, academia, and the media attended.
“MAAIF recognizes that climate change impacts can only be tackled through collaborative efforts,” Sunday Mutabaazi, chairperson of the MAAIF climate change task force, said in his opening remarks.
The guidelines are in line with the national ones developed by the National Planning Authority (NPA) in partnership with Climate Change Department (CCD) in 2014 to harmonize sector specific guidelines and ensure that they are aligned to national development plans.
The draft agriculture sector guidelines were developed through a consultative bottoms-up approach led by MAAIF that took nearly a year starting in November 2014.
During the validation workshop, the participants, grouped by subsectors (crop, livestock, and fisheries), scrutinized the document and gave their inputs.
Their feedback will be consolidated and integrated into the draft guidelines to be approved by the ministry, and rolled out for implementation by different climate change participants.
“Once validated, stakeholders at all levels should ensure that the guidelines are implemented,” said Chebet Maikut, commissioner, Climate Change Department, Ministry of Water and Environment. He appealed to the districts that had not integrated climate change into their District Development Plans to urgently do so.
The guidelines will facilitate mainstreaming of climate change issues into the agriculture sector policies, plans, programs, and activities by providing basic and flexible guidance on entry points. They also include basic steps and tools on how to mainstream climate change adaptation into agriculture policy processes.
PACCA is a CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) flagship project (policies and institutions) implemented by IITA, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and Bioversity International.
IITA’s efforts to promote the processing of cassava in Tanzania have received a major boost with the completion and handing over of newly constructed facilities for a training center on cassava processing on 27 January. Facilities included an equipment fabrication workshop, a cassava processing center, and offices.
The construction of the buildings, which are on land donated by the Government of Tanzania to IITA in Kwembe, about 30 km from Dar es Salaam, was funded by the Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project. This is a multinational, CGIAR-led project, funded by the African Development Bank and led by IITA.
The buildings are part of the project’s efforts to support the generation of agricultural technology and innovations through the construction of improved facilities that support efficient dissemination of postharvest cassava processing technologies to the farming communities.
On hand to receive the building was Edward Kanju, a senior Scientist at IITA-Tanzania on behalf of the IITA Director for the Eastern Africa hub, Victor Manyong.
Also present at the event was Veronica Uzokwe, the Country Coordinator of the IITA/SARD-SC project. Uzokwe emphasized that the center would go a long way in supporting IITA’s efforts to disseminate cassava postharvest innovation/technologies and value addition. This in turn is expected to contribute to improving food security to overcome hunger, improve livelihoods, and lift the country out of poverty.
She said the training center will bring together stakeholders from across the country for theoretical and practical lessons on postharvest cassava processing technologies.
“The project is complete and ready to operate; we hope that IITA will get more funds for operational efficiency,” said Uzokwe.
According to Bakari Abdallah, IITA/SARD-SC Research Assistant, the project has purchased improved cassava postharvest processing machines that will be installed this month.
“We have already purchased equipment such as a hammer mill, fryers, hydraulic presses, and peeling and chipping machines ready for installation in the cassava processing building. The machines will speed up the processing of high quality cassava products compared to local technologies.” said Bakari.
Others present at the handing over ceremony were Zulfawu Yahaya, IITA/SARD-SC Procurement Specialist; Clare Ruhweza, IITA Regional Maintenance Officer; Gilbert Kimboka, Assistant Maintenance Officer at IITA-Tanzania; Davis Mwakanyamale, SARD-SC Country Supervisor; and Onugbolu Onyekachi, a consultant Quantity Surveyor from IITA-Ibadan, Nigeria.
IITA recently trained its staff, partners, and farmers in Kongwa District, Tanzania, on how to control aflatoxin using Aflasafe, an effective and safe biological control product developed by researchers at the Institute and partners.
Kongwa is a major maize and groundnut growing and consuming area. Both are important basic ingredients in complementary weaning foods in Tanzania.
Consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated complementary foods by children under five years has been implicated in the high rates of child growth impairment in Tanzania, manifested as stunting (42%), being underweight (16%), and wasting (5%).
Before the training, the IITA team paid a courtesy call to Jackson Shija, the District Agricultural, Irrigation and Cooperatives Officer (DAICO), who appreciated the Institute’s efforts in supporting them to tackle the aflatoxin problem in the District.
“We are very concerned about aflatoxins because maize and groundnut are staple crops in the area. Our district has the highest stunting rates in the country; 56% compared to 42%, the national average,” he said.
“Although we have been encouraging farmers to grow small grains, especially bulrush millet and sorghum, they are not willing to grow these crops, preferring instead to grow maize and groundnut. Since we have failed to persuade farmers to grow these other crops, efforts to manage aflatoxin are very welcome. Let us find a solution to make the product safe, as we know that farmers will always grow and consume maize and groundnut.”
In addition to creating awareness on aflatoxin and its health threats, the training, held 21―22 January, focused on how to conduct efficacy trials for Aflasafe. Kongwa is one of the target districts where field trials to develop an effective aflatoxin biological control product for Tanzania are being conducted.
According to George Mahuku, IITA Plant Pathologist who led the training, the participants were trained on how to set up trials, how to handle the Aflasafe product, how to apply it on maize and groundnut, what to do or not do after the application, and the types of data to collect.
For example, he said, the farmers or researchers should keep off the fields, and suspend weeding or any farm activities for two to four weeks after application to avoid burying the product in the soil and affecting its efficacy.
A total of 17 participants were trained. They included extension agents from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kongwa District Council, the National Biological Control Program (NCPB), and farmers on whose fields validation trials were being conducted. Also conducting the training was Greg Ogbe from IITA-Nigeria, who shared his experiences from similar activities conducted in Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal.
IITA has produced and dispatched over 10 tons of experimental biological control products (Aflasafe), which will be tested in field trials for their efficacy to reduce aflatoxin contamination in three countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. The production took place at IITA’s research facilities in Tanzania.
This is part of the Institute’s efforts to develop a sustainable and safe technology to reduce aflatoxin contamination prevalent in two of the most important key staple crops, maize and groundnut. Aflatoxin is a deadly poison produced by certain types of mold and is known to cause cancer and stunting in children, among other health problems.
IITA, in partnership with USDA-ARS and local national institutions, has successfully adapted the biocontrol technology and developed a biocontrol product with the generic name Aflasafe, which reduces aflatoxin contamination of groundnut and maize consistently by >80%. Currently, the product is registered for use in Nigeria and Kenya.
The biological control product is made from strains of the mold, Aspergillus flavus, that do not produce aflatoxin. These good strains outcompete and displace aflatoxin-producing strains of Aspergillus, thus reducing aflatoxin contamination of important food security crops like maize.
For each country two formulations of the biological control product were produced: (i) a country specific product using strains only found in that country, and (ii) a regional product produced from strains from that country, but these strains
also occur in other countries. For Malawi these were MW02 and MWMZ01—the former was made from strains that are specific to Malawi while the latter was made from region-specific strains. Similarly in Mozambique MZ02 and MWMZ01 were produced and dispatched. In Tanzania, TZ01 made from region-specific strains and TZ02 made from strains that are specific to Tanzania, were produced.
The experimental biological control products will be validated for efficacy to control aflatoxin in groundnut and maize. Both crops are staples in the three countries and are also highly susceptible to aflatoxin contamination. The biological control products will be tested this growing season and the data collected will go towards identifying the best formulation to control aflatoxins. After more validation tests the products will be registered and made available for wider use.
The atoxigenic strains were identified following rigorous tests and characterization done in IITA’s laboratories in Nigeria and USDA-ARS in Arizona, USA. These isolates lack the genes required for aflatoxin production and therefore will not produce aflatoxin in nature. Each product is made up of four atoxigenic strains that are widely distributed in each country and belong to different classes.
To produce the biological control product, atoxigenic strains of A. flavus are coated on roasted sorghum, which acts as a carrier of the product. The sorghum is roasted to prevent it from germinating when applied in the field. A polymer to
stick the spores of the fungus to the sorghum and a dye, a natural food colorant, are added. The final product looks blue (from the blue dye) and is readily distinguished from untreated sorghum.
“The production of 10 tons of aflasafe was by no means easy as we had to do it manually—it was three weeks of back-breaking work for our staff, partners, and other hired laborers,” said George Mahuku, IITA’s Plant Pathologist, who led the efforts.
They also received support from IITA staff in Nigeria where IITA already has a plant to produce Aflasafe. “However, we are very happy and proud of our efforts and the impact it will have in reducing aflatoxins, a major problem in the three countries,” Mahuku added. “It made economic sense to produce the Aflasafe in Tanzania as opposed to Nigeria as the shipping costs would be very high.” They were shipped by road to the two countries.
Recently a daily newspaper in Kenya wrote two articles that put IITA in a negative light in relation to monies paid to the Institute by the National Irrigation Board of Kenya. The Institute wrote a right of reply to provide more details on the payment which was published on 27 January 2016.
Below is an excerpt from the statement from IITA.
In the articles “Anxiety as cartels eye Galana project cash” and “Anxiety grips NIB offices over looming staff audit” published by the People’s Daily on 4 January 2016 and 12 January 2016, respectively, the writer, Kinyuru Munuhe, claims that the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) had been awarded a “questionable” tender of Kshs 3.2 million by the National Irrigation Board (NIB).
The articles further insinuate that IITA was among a cartel of organizations that were benefiting unfairly from the Galana irrigation project.
IITA is dismayed that in both articles, the journalist did not contact IITA to get more details on the payments as should have been done for fair and balanced reporting as provided for in the Code of Ethics for Practice of Journalism in Kenya (Second Schedule of the Media Council Act 2013).
IITA is an international non-profit research organization whose mission is to prevent hunger, poverty, and malnutrition in Africa by developing science-based, sustainable solutions to the challenges facing agriculture in Africa. We are a member of CGIAR.
We work in over 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa together with a wide range of partners to develop technologies using public funds for the public good and shared freely with any country in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. We are an honest, credible, fair, and trustworthy institution with a 50-year track record of working for African farmers. We are audited annually by reputable external auditors.
One of IITA’s objectives is to ensure that countries in Africa not only produce enough food but that the food is
safe. One of the threats to food
safety in many parts of the world is aflatoxin, which is a serious problem in Kenya. For instance, in 2004, the country reported the worst fatality from aflatoxin poisoning in the world with over a hundred people dying immediately after eating maize that was contaminated by aflatoxin.
IITA continues to lead efforts in developing an effective solution to the problem using an all-natural biological control technology, Aflasafe. In Kenya, the highly effective biological product is registered as Aflasafe KE01 by the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB). Currently, the Aflasafe factory in Nigeria is the sole producer of the product in the world.
To ensure that logistical and production costs are brought to a minimum, IITA, in partnership with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service (USDA–ARS) are constructing a plant at KALRO’s research station at Katumani, Machakos, to produce Aflasafe KE01 locally.
Early in 2015, NIB ordered 8.2 tons of Aflasafe KE01 to help deal with aflatoxin contamination in maize, which has been a major issue in some of the irrigation schemes. The World Food Program (WFP), for example, has found it difficult to purchase maize from Hola and Bura since it has been found to be contaminated with aflatoxin that is beyond the permissible limit in most years. The 3.2 million Kshs received from NIB covered the costs to manufacture and airfreight the Aflasafe KE01 from IITA-Nigeria to Kenya.
In addition to supplying the Aflasafe KE01, IITA and KALRO researchers trained NIB field workers and farmers in the schemes on how to apply the product and have since been monitoring the levels of aflatoxins in the maize
at no cost.
The choice of treating maize fields in the schemes with Aflasafe KE01 has contributed significantly in ensuring that the levels of aflatoxin are reduced. In Galana, all the maize harvested so far from the Aflasafe-treated fields was found to have a contamination level of less than 4 parts per billion aflatoxin―meeting both the Kenyan regulatory thresholds for aflatoxin in maize and even the stringent European Union standards. It is therefore not only safe for human and livestock consumption but can also be traded in any part of the world.