The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture says the main explanation for the abysmally low crop yields in Eastern Africa’s Great Lakes region is that most soils there have been so overused that they have lost most of the fertility they originally had.
Ironically, and this compounds the problem, the same region is also the one with the lowest rates of fertiliser use in the world and a rapidly increasing population to feed.
Now, IITA is rated as one of the world’s leading research partners working day and night to find workable solutions to hunger, malnutrition and poverty as well as the misery and other complications to which the conspiracy of this “evil triangle” leads.
More specifically, the award-winning research-for-development conducted by the Nigeria-based global agency has for decades been known to address the development needs of tropical countries – that is, including Tanzania, where it is ably represented and is fully operational.
Records show that IITA has been partnering with the government and a wide array of other stakeholders in devising and implementing initiatives seeking to enhance crop quality and productivity, reduce producer and consumer risks, and generally generate wealth from agriculture.
There is therefore every reason for the non-profit agency’s research findings to be taken with the seriousness they call for, given the state of our agriculture and the meagreness of the sector’s contribution to the incomes of individual Tanzanians and the national economy.
This is important in that not only the government but also most of our people have for long taken “agriculture is the backbone of our national economy” as a virtual second national anthem, and hence the vehemence with which development strategies and initiatives such as ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ have been or are being touted.
ITTA has done much in seeking answers to a range of complex problems plaguing agriculture and people’s lives in tropical countries. However, easily of particular relevance to Tanzania is that it has previously conducted comprehensive scientific studies on food crops that are popular dishes in many parts of the country.
These crops, all of which contribute to the enhancement of food security and provide income for millions of people, include bananas, cereals and legumes, roots and tubers, and fruits and vegetables.
At least for some of these crops, the agency has strived to develop innovative solutions aimed at enhancing productivity and profitability through improved processing and more aggressive marketing.
Given that food quality, nutrition and public health are interlinked and that IITA seeks to boost crop yields but with an eye on the need to sustain biodiversity, Tanzanians have cause to heed the calls the agency makes from time to time.
Come to think of it, is it not a fact that overuse has made most soils in Tanzania outlive their usefulness and therefore need professional intervention from the likes of IITA to come back to life?
Who really wouldn’t benefit from innovative initiative practically guaranteeing higher productivity in agriculture while this clearly enhances livelihoods and food and nutritional security?
We this strongly recommend that IITA and all other research agencies aimed for more workable findings and do more to popularise those findings – and for the public to take the findings more seriously.