As part of their B4FA Media Fellowship, six fellows had the opportunity to make a field trip to Arusha, Tanzania on 18 February 2013 to visit three sites where science is being put into practice to help Tanzania’s farmers: a commercial tissue culture facility, the Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI – one of the research institutes of the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security), and HORTI Tengeru, another Ministry research institute. The fellows included Polycarp Machira, Rosemary Mirondo, Leonard Magomba, Kenan Kalagho, Daniel Semberya and Victor Karega.
In the tissue culture lab and greenhouse, Mr. Mushobozi of Eco Agri Consult offered insights about how he propagates disease-free banana and cassava plantlets for sale to farmers. Banana and cassava are vegetatively propagated crops which are essential for food security in East Africa and beyond. Mr. Mushobozi explained the stages of the process to the journalists: “after multiplication in the lab, the plantlets are raised in glass tubes and later first planted in coconut husk in a greenhouse before being transplanted into pots for sale.” The journalists were then able to view the plantlets as they grew in the greenhouse. As a former government worker (Mr. Mushobozi was a researcher into plant protection at HORTI Tengeru), his tissue culture business idea came during a visit to Israel where he learnt about the technology. From his experience of the requirements of Tanzanian farmers, he soon spotted the commercial potential of the technology, and the benefit it could bring in his home country.
At the Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), the journalists spoke with several plant breeders about their breeding programmes for wheat, barley, maize and legumes, gaining up-close insights into their scientific research and its practical application. The objective of the institute is to “attain sustainable food self-sufficiency at household- and zonal level, increased income generation, employment growth and enhanced earnings through the development and dissemination of appropriate and environmentally friendly technologies”.
Lastly, the six B4FA Media Fellows met with two local farmers and Mr. Swai, a retired researcher, to learn more about how local farmers are using modern hybrid maize and hybrid cabbage seeds to improve their crops and yields. Through these interactions, the journalists were able to get first-hand experience of how local farmers are willing to adopt modern “high-tech” seed when there is a clear benefit to them.