Transforming Tanzania’s Agrarian Sector through Maize Breeding

by Dr. Arnold A Mushongi

Dr. Arnold A Mushongi mentions in his report about how maize is a political crop in Tanzania & Sub Saharan Africa, a crop that was popularized in the Southern Highlands Zone between 1950s and1970s. The diversity of uses of maize decreases with level of economy of the country. The potential of the crop to boost Agrarian Economies is higher particularly in sub Saharan Africa (SSA) as maize is synonymous with food security and it is also a source of income to rural resource-poor farming communities.

The report further mentions that genetic advancement in crops contributes significantly to food security. MacRoberts (2009) reported that improved varieties are a prime catalyst to strategies use of agro-inputs and other sectors of crop development. For instance, tolerance of crops to biotic stresses would minimize use of pesticides (Robinson, 1987), whereas tolerance to biotic stresses may suggest use of less fertilizers under low soil moisture conditions (Bänzinger et al., 2000), all of which reduce costs of production to resource-poor farmers (Echarte et al., 2008) and facilitate sustainable conservation of natural resources (Duvick, 1999).

Mushongi recommends, the viable solution would be to engage private sector in the design for new maize cultivars in order to increase grain yield productivity under unpredictable production conditions.

The availability of fake inputs in the market where farmers loose money for seed, pesticides, fertilizers and labour thus perpetuating poverty to farmers who are already resource poor and produce maize under suboptimal conditions.

Smallholders are likely to be even farther from realizing yield potential, for reasons not confined to weather. One reason is that the genetic advances offered by breeding research have not been matched by agronomic practices and efficient support services for smallholders, many of whom are located in marginal areas. Byerlee and Heisey (1996) asserted that as adoption of improved maize moves into more marginal areas the effects on national yield levels are also numerically marginal. Put simply, there may be little advantage of using a hybrid if the yield potential of the farmer’s soil is less than 1 ton.

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