Tanzania set to become Africa’s strategic Irish potato producer

A group picture of stakeholders who attended the closing ceremony of the three-year training programme for potato growers in Njombe Region. The closing ceremony, held in Mbeya City on Friday, September 15, 2017, was presided over by the Njombe Regional Assistant Secretary (Economics and Production) , Mr. Lameck Noah,. (Picture by courtesy of our Correspondent Prosper Mfugale)

By David Newapa in Njombe

A three-year training programme of Irish potato growers ended here today (September 15, 2017) flashing indications that Tanzania may become a strategic producer of the crop in the south of the Sahara.

The Head of Clusters Development with Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzanians (Sagcot), Ms Maria Ijumba said the programme has unleashed agri-business opportunities and that production of the crop is rising steadily.
“We are better placed to become a leading producer of Irish potatoes in sub-Saharan Africa because these three years have witnessed a great change.  Farmers have tripled production because the mindset has been transformed,” she said adding that mindset transformation was a hard task, especially when new things were introduced to farmers for the first time.

Before launching the programme, she recalled, farmers used traditional potato farming methods and the product of their labour did not impact their lives.  Today, she said, the crop is considered as a liberator of farmers from poverty in Mbeya, Iringa and Njombe regions.
She attributed achievements registered to solid partnership between the government and the private sector and commitment to the programme during the whole
period of the training programme.
The Dutch government has plans to build a centre for the development of the potato industry in Mbeya,” Ms Ijumba reminded adding that the centre will be instrumental in boosting in potato production.

The Njombe Regional Assistant Secretary (Economics and
Production) , Mr. Lameck Noah, thanked SAGCOT and partners for  the
training programme in which he described  as a panacea to
potato farmers’ problems.  He said the government recognizes their efforts.
“The region will ensure all the councils work closely with
farmers and extension officers continue to encourage farmers to use  high-yield potato seed for big harvests,” Mr Noah said, calling on trained farmers to
transfer skills and knowledge to fellow farmers in  other areas.
He said the government recognised the efforts and support of SAGCOT
Centre and its partners in transforming small holder farmers in the
corridor.
A farmer, Ms Leah Nsilu, from Matembwe Ward in the region said the programme  has helped farmers in the ward to adopt modern approaches in  tilling, planting and manuring farms.

Mr Chesco Ngeve of Mtwango village said before the training he used to harvest 30 sacks from a hectare, but now he is harvesting 100 sacks from the same area.

He invested 1.5 million but earned 3 million, he said, suggesting that the region should consider exporting surplus potatoes to neighbouring countries.  “This programme has taught us the value of keeping records and use of modern machines in planting, terracing and harvesting.”

The Potato Project Coordinator, Mr Owekisha Kwigizile, said farmers and various types of leaders and functionaries benefited from the programme.  He hopes the empowerment will help farmers in project regions and beyond.

SAGCOT activities are funded by the Government of Tanzania, UKAID, the
Embassy of Norway, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), USAID,
World Bank Group and AGRA.

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