Written by Isa Chuki
Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have launched three new projects Saturday to support efforts to develop cassava varieties with resistance to Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and to establish more sustainable seed systems to enable smallholder farmers better access to such varieties.
The projects were officially announced during a Cassava Value Chain event organized in Dar es Salaam that brought together representatives from the government, donor community, private sector and development partners. Also present was International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga.
Hon. Engineer Christopher Chiza, Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, noted that the projects came at an opportune time when farmers needed access to planting materials of new improved varieties released in the country.
“These are extremely important projects for Tanzania and the region because cassava is a very important crop not only for food security but it also has great potential as a cash crop through processing. These two diseases, especially CBSD, are a major problem to our farmers and need to be urgently addressed,” he said in a speech read on his behalf by the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Hon. Eng Mbogo Futakamba.
“Cassava is one of our priority crops, as it is mostly grown by resource-poor smallholder farmers and especially women. Therefore finding sustainable solutions to its production challenges provides us all an opportunity to make a difference in their lives and make progress in efforts to overcome hunger and poverty,’ said Lawrence Kent, a Senior Program Officer at the Gates Foundation.
The Cassava Varieties and Clean Seed to Combat CBSD and CMD (5CP) project will facilitate sharing of five of the best varieties from Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Uganda for regional testing across the countries to speed up the development of varieties with dual resistance to the two diseases.
The project, led by IITA, will further pilot a clean seed system in Tanzania to produce virus-tested cassava planting material for multiplication by either local communities or seed entrepreneurs for sale to farmers.
“The most effective and realistic approach to reducing losses to CMD and CBSD is the development and deployment of varieties that have dual resistance to the two diseases. Researchers in the five countries have made good progress towards this end and many varieties have been released or are in the pipeline. By facilitating the sharing of their best varieties, we ensure that farmers get the best varieties from the region,” said Edward Kanju, IITA cassava breeder and team leader of the 5CP project.
Another project, the Commercially Sustainable Quality Assured Cassava Seed System, being implemented by the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), will develop and test supply chain models for the distribution of the newly released cassava varieties. This project will work on building the capacity of seed entrepreneurs to produce disease-free cassava planting material to be sold to farmers and to facilitate strong linkages between these entrepreneurs and the producers of breeder and foundation-level planting material.
On the other hand, the Community Action in Controlling Cassava Brown Streak Disease through Clean Seed project will implement a community-based approach for managing and controlling CBSD. Led by the Department of Research and Development (DRD) at the Ministry of Agriculture, the project will be piloted in two of the major cassava-growing zones of Tanzania--Muleba and Chato Districts in the Lake Zone and Mkuranga and Kisarawe Districts in the Eastern Zone.
“Since we now have more knowledge on how CBSD is spread, we will actively engage the farmers in managing and controlling CBSD at the farm level. We will conduct training on the disease, its causes, symptoms, and how they can keep their farms disease free,” says Dr Kiddo Mtunda, the project’s lead researcher.
All three projects will work with the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI) to ensure that only disease-free planting material is disseminated and to develop a financially viable and sustainable approach to certification of planting material.
The results from the three projects will provide lessons for scaling-out in countries in East, Central, and Southern Africa that are also grappling with the two diseases.