Cassava is becoming increasingly important as both a food and a cash crop in Masasi and Nachingwea Districts. Like any other type of crops, cassava productivity is increased by the use of improved planting materials and recommended agronomic practices. However, availability of this high yielding cassava variety is still so low that a majority of farmers use low yielding cassava cuttings that are more susceptible to pests and diseases.
The Pathways program has been working help farmers understand the importance of using high yielding improved cassava ‘seed’ varieties. After experiencing a challenge in availability of seed in the last season, the program supported farmers with bundles of improved cassava varieties called “Kiroba” with 5 bundles for each Farmer Field and Business School learning plot.
Mr. Hamis Matogoro, a para-professional from Ruponda Village, was first to testify to how important it is to use improved varieties, particularly in the cultivation of cassava: “Through demonstration plot I learned that, the use of improved cassava varieties reduce the risks of insect pests and diseases especially Cassava Brown Streak Diseases. It takes 8 months to mature compared to local that takes 12 months”.
Now, more and more farmers are choosing to use the Kiroba variety, understanding the importance of using improved varieties. However, most smallholder farmers who take part in the Pathways program (80% of whom are women) still have to travel more than 20km at a time in search for seed. Recognizing this challenge the program decided to pilot commercial seed multiplication farms in one village in each district; between the these plots, they are producing the seed (cuttings) in 6 acres of land.
Tausi Bakari was one of the farmers selected to work as cassava seed multiplier in Mwandila Village. She explains that this is the first time she is cultivating 3 acres of land producing cassava, something she would not have considered on her own. The cassava she used to cultivate in her quarter acre plot was mostly used for family consumption. But now, after working with the program, Tausi is happy for the business opportunity in supplying the improved cassava variety. In the coming seasons she will be supplying improved seed to farmers in her village and other villages nearby. Her clients will benefit from the reduced the cost both in time and money spent transporting seed from long distances, as well as curbing the risk of cuttings drying out before they can plant them, as happens often.
Tausi plans to promote her product, visiting villages beyond her own to let them know that she can provide access to improved cassava variety. “I’m confident to say that I will increase my family income through this business and increase my network as I will be linked with different people, I welcome other famers to learn what am doing.”
Contributed by Christina John, Program Officer Business Adviser, Pathways Tanzania