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Breaking the single-crop cycle

A survey reveals what rice farmers in Tanzania need to diversify crop production with vegetables

In Morogoro, one of the major rice production areas of Tanzania, farmers use residue water from rice irrigation to grow vegetables for additional income. While irrigation water may be readily available, other inputs for vegetable production are not so easy to obtain, as a recent baseline survey carried out by AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center in Mvomero and Kilombero districts in Morogoro revealed.

The survey, part of a project to enhance vegetable value chains in rice-based and sole crop production systems in Morogoro, identified constraints to the production, marketing and consumption of tomato, pepper, and African eggplant. The survey also assessed common crop pests and diseases in the area and the contamination of vegetables on farms and in markets by microbes, pesticides and heavy metals.

According to Victor Afari-Sefa, AVRDC Socioeconomist based in Arusha, the survey found that to boost vegetable production in Morogoro’s rice-based system, farmers will need better access to credit and inputs such as fertilizer and seed of improved, high yielding varieties with better resistance to pest and diseases. Extension services also must be strengthened to provide farmers with a reliable source of information on integrated crop and pest management practices.

The survey identified the need to build more robust marketing information systems to open opportunities for farmers to access larger, more lucrative markets such as supermarket chains and food processors. Skills development is another area in need of attention; Victor noted farmers would benefit from training in recordkeeping and business management.

Project enumerators interviewed 237 farmers and 28 value chain participants, including seed and agro-input dealers, vegetable collectors, wholesalers, retailers, traders and consumers. The greatest challenges facing vegetable traders in Morogoro include unpredictable markets, fluctuating prices, lack of adequate trading capital, and the high cost of transportation.

As part of the project, staff and students of Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) received training in protocols for detecting human and plant pathogens in vegetables.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Africa Rice Center, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI), Ohio State University (OSU) and the District Agriculture and Livestock Development Office for Mvomero and Kilombero are partners with AVRDC in the effort to promote vegetable production to raise rice farmer incomes, and to encourage greater consumption of vegetables to improve the nutritional quality of diets. The Sugarcane Research Institute (SRI) in Kibaha also collaborated on the project.