Ushering cost effective potato IPM measures to smallholder farmers in southern highlands of Tanzania

Agriculture is the pivotal sector on which the livelihood of most Tanzanians relies. Agriculture has employed approximately 80% of Tanzanians with a share of approximately 50% in the Tanzania’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Being cognizant of this, the Tanzanian government has paid due attention to build up the growth of the sector through several agricultural development programs.  The horticulture sector in Tanzania is growing rapidly and contributes significantly into the national income. The Southern Highlands of Tanzania is one of the important areas for horticultural production in Tanzania. My idea is based on ushering knowledge to smallholder farmers on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices in production of ware potatoes in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.

Potato is an important food crop in the world.  It is recognized as one of the promising crops in alleviating hunger within society. Approximately, 90% of ware potato in Tanzania is sourced from the southern highlands. Despite the importance of this ecological zone in producing potatoes, lower yields make the potato production a risky investment. Generally, lack of good agricultural practices has been attributing to high losses due to pests in potato production in the southern highlands. Lack of quality seed potatoes, inappropriate varieties, lack of crop rotation, inadequate soil tillage and soil management has been the major bottlenecks in potato production among smallholder farmers. This emanates from limited IPM knowledge and skills among smallholder farmers in the region. Hence, ushering cost effective potato IPM measures to smallholder farmers is of paramount importance in boosting potato production per unit area which is still among the lowest in East Africa.

Potato production is an important source of income for smallholder farmers in the southern highlands of Tanzania. It contributes 90% of the overall ware potato in the country. Currently, the ware potato production in Tanzania doses not meet the market demand due to relatively low yields hampered by pests. Since there is an increasing potato consumption and fast growing interest in fries in Tanzania, it poses an opportunity to first wave entrepreneurs in the potato value chain especially among smallholder farmers. Therefore ushering IPM measures to smallholder farmers as means of building their capacities will facilitate sustainable potato production while protecting the environment and ensuring safety to the consumers. Moreover, the project will help to increase my propensity to grapple with challenges in protecting food crops sustainably and finally ensure food security for the future generations.

My approach will involve partnership with the local government, NGOs, agriculture research institutions, agricultural universities, input companies (seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers), agricultural and extension staffs and input agro-dealers. The partnership will involve a holistic approach of building the capacity of potato farmers in managing potato pests. I will coordinate a stakeholders meeting to ensure that financial, human, physical, social and environmental capitals are well aligned with respect to stakeholder’s capacity. Through mobilizing these stakeholders the technical information on potato IPM will be provided to smallholder farmers. A baseline survey will be conducted to facilitate project evaluation after intervention of the project. Practical training on potato IPM will be conducted through Farmer Field Schools and demonstration plots. The progress of the project’s output will be verified through training reports, project reports, disease incidence and knowledge practices reports. In order to achieve the desired goal the assumption relies on timely availability of government permits, conducive weather for potato production, full participation of partners and other stakeholders as well as farmer’s positive attitude to adopt ushered potato IPM measures.  Potato Integrated Pest Management Measures will involve prevention, monitoring and intervention strategies of managing potato pests.

The project is expected to cover 500 farmers in Njombe district in the southern highlands. Due to the comparative advantage of Tanzania in the East African region in terms of land availability, proximity to the sea and availability to high value potato markets, it marks the beginning of knowledge dissemination to other potential ware potato producing areas in the country. Currently smallholder farmers achieve 5-7 tons per hectare, with this intervention ware potato farmers can achieve up to 15-20 tons per hectare. This in turn will help to meet the internal and external ware potato demand there by increasing income and employment opportunities in the potato sector. The project will help in increasing income among smallholder farmers and employment in the potato value chain through improved yield and market-oriented production system powered by IPM.

Saadan Edson, Tanzania

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