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April 17, 2008

Maize pesticide tolerance, poor storage reduce Tanzania's food security

Tanzania`s food security is partly getting worse thanks to vanishing of indigenous varieties of pest resistant maize and to poor storage technologies.

This trend goes on unabated because of lack of national farm policy that emphasises the cultivation and storage of home-grown pest resistant varieties of maize and other crops, complicated as well by there not being collaboration between farmers, entomologists and farm field school trainers through agricultural extension services.

These remarks were raised Dr. Constancia Rugumamu, an expert in entomology-pest management at the Faculty of Science of the University of Dar es Salaam at a workshop on held at the college.

In her view, lack of collaboration between the mentioned stakeholders was a serious blow to national efforts for achieving food security because about 90 percent of the seeds used by farmers are of local varieties. This weakness is now raising even more grave concerns because of the rising food shortages which in turn heighten food prices.

Food shortages in part arise from the fact that between 35-40 percent of the nation`s annual food harvests are damaged by pests. This situation is exacerbated by poor storage facilities in rural areas. But this unfortunate trend, she said, could be reversed by adopting farm policies that seek to help smallholder farmers increase maize productivity through proper storage of pest resistant varieties, in addition to promoting biodiversity by limiting hazardous industrial pesticides in their ecosystems.

In practical terms, ongoing scarcity of indigenous maize seeds has increased insect pest infestations across the country, ultimately threatening local gene pool for the perpetuation and production of more resistant local varieties, hence a great setback to the smallholders farmers in this country.

As one way of sensitising the public about the need to conserve local maize seed varieties, the Science Department would soon be conducting countrywide campaigns to educate maize farmers and others about new techniques for controlling post harvest loses. "Crop pest infestations deprive farmers of significant part of their production yearly and they are among the major cause of food loses in many productive areas in Tanzania," she said.

Prostephanus truncatus was named as the most destructive insect pest as of now, though extension officers could easily help maize farmers fight it.

Maize is now both staple and cash crop, and different varieties are being grown in almost all regions.

IPP Media

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