The Manager of Knowledge Management and Communication Dr. Richard Kasuga accompanied with other Managers and Directors from TARI HQ,Center Directors and some staff from TRI Tumbi and TARI Kihinga visiting various seedling nurseries at TARI Tumbi after the opening of Agricultural Technolgy Transfer hub. Photo Credit: TARI

Tanzania grapples with counterfeit seeds menace

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_letter=”M” dropcap_content=”AIZE is the most important crop in Tanzania, grown by more than 50 percent of the country’s farmers and accounting for 31 percent of total food production.”]

The crop covers 45 percent of total arable land and generates close to 50 percent of rural cash income. Small-scale farmers account for 85 percent of the total maize production, with medium and large-scale farmers contributing 10 percent and 50 percent respectively. Betwelo Mpangala is one of the maize farmers in Songea Rural District, Ruvuma Region, more than 900km from Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

He has been growing the crop for years and the harvest was good since he started using improved seeds. But this year, he says, he harvested less than expected after planting fake maize seeds. “I used to harvest 25 100kg bags per acre, but this year I harvested less than seven bags per acre on a farm where I thought I followed all good agronomic practices,” says Mpangala who owns a 42-acre farm in the area. There are more than 50 maize seed varieties officially approved for commercialisation in the country — the most of any crop.

But there are several challenges that limit certified seed use, including high retail price, inadequate and proliferation of cheaper counterfeits. The Tanzanian government established Agriculture Seed Agency (ASA) to expand seed production and distribution, facilitate seed accessibility by farmers, promote private sector participation in the seed industry development, and strengthen the capacity for research and development of improved varieties.

However, farmers and local seed producers still complain about fake seeds and restrictive policies such as those that don’t allow them to produce their own seeds.

Oziniel Benego, a maize and sunflower farmer in Kongwa District, in Dodoma region, a committee member of Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania (MVIWATA), a national network of farmer groups in Tanzania. Benego said that sometimes they receive hybrid seeds from the government agents which are labelled with all the good qualities but which don’t yield good results when planted. “Being small-scale farmers, our incomes are low.

Therefore, we go for seeds from government agents because they are affordable but when we plant them the results are very disappointing,” said Benego. Benego and other farmers have resorted to producing seeds locally, which they deem reliable and sustainable. However, they face challenges getting licensed by the authorities to enable them sell and distribute seeds to other districts. The local seed producers are pushing for official recognition and friendly policies.

“I would like to call on the government through it agents to educate us (small-scale seed producers) on how to add value to our local seeds we produce, because this will enable us get certification and licence to sell and distribute our seeds within our districts and the rest of the country,” said Benego. ASA chief executive officer, Dr Sophia Kashenge, said that fake seeds challenge can be attributed to a number of factors, including limited knowledge among farmers on where they should buy certified seeds.

The official policy, she said, is very clear that access to high-quality seeds is essential to raising productivity and improving the competitiveness of the agricultural sector. “We have been encouraging farmers to use improved seed varieties to increase their production and overcome the effects of climatic change. It has been revealed that there is a poor pace over the adoption of improved seeds by many farmers, especially those in rural areas, a situation which weakens the performance of the key sector in which the national economy hinges,”

Dr. Kashenge said. Paulo Msemwa, an agronomist in Ruvuma region, blamed the proliferation of fake seeds on “deceitful people who move around villages pretending to sell certified seeds, while they are not”.

“That’s why we are directing farmers to stop from buying seeds from unknown people who move in villagers and weekly or monthly open markets,” he said.

Dr. Richard Kasuga, the communication and knowledge management specialist at the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI), said that Tanzania Official Seed Multiplication Institute (TOSCI) has the sole mandate to certify seeds and provide awareness to farmers on how to identify fake seeds.

TOSCI established a special input verification service known as ‘T-HAKIKI’, which uses technology to help farmers identify fake inputs. The programme was financed by Alliance of Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Mastercard Foundation.

“The technology will help the farmers to understand the proper use of these inputs at their convenience just via their mobile phones.,” said the DirectorGeneral of TOSCI, Patrick Ngwediagi. “This will also help the government in dealing with unscrupulous traders. T-Hakiki will revolutionise the agriculture sector and improve food security hence increasing the income of smallholder farmers and reduce the prevalence of counterfeit or adulterated agricultural inputs in Tanzania.

” When presenting the agriculture budget 2022/2023 early May this year, the Tanzanian Minister for agriculture in Tanzania, Hussein Mohammed Bashe, pointed out that the government had made various efforts in curbing seed challenges farmers face in the country. He cited, among others, the renovation of TARI research centres such as Tengeru in Arusha, which is complete.

The renovation of Mlingano in Dodoma and Mikocheni in Dar es Salaam is in progress. He also said that the government, through TARI, has a plan to step up seed research on strategic crops.

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