While most commercial producer groups concentrate on growing paddy, one group in mid-west Tanzania is establishing itself as the first rice seed producing association.
They are piloting the New Rice for Africa (NERICA), a rice strain suited to dry-lands which according to experts can greatly boost rice yields. This variety is currently being piloted in several countries across Africa.
“Marafiki wa Ardhi”, (“Friends of the Land”) comprises of four men and four women led by their passionate association Secretary, George Busungu. The group began operating in 2007.
According to 57 year old Busungu, “the first time we grew 38 kilos of rice seeds and harvested 265 of paddy. That was the first time the seeds were grown in Iduduma village and now this is the second time our group is growing the seeds”.
“The seeds are good because they produce sweet rice and take a short period of time to grow. One kilo of rice seeds costs Tsh 5,000/= (U$D 3) and 1 sack of 100 kilos costs Tsh 500,000/= (U$D 312)”, explained Busungu.
The father of three mentions that group members could do with a power tiller for ploughing instead of using cows. He also says that ants devoured their seeds. As part of their contingency plan and to reduce their dependency on rice seed growing, the association is also growing onions on two acres of land.
Growing rice seeds with the intent of selling to other rice farmers and inputs suppliers are an uncommon practice in Nyasa area – most farmers only grow rice. If successful, the group will find a ready market in the predominately rice-growing area.
To achieve the mark of standards the seeds will have to travel to another urban region for testing by the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute - TOSCI. TOSCI will also certify the group to sell outside their locality. Until this confirmation the group cannot sell outside the district.
Local Value Chain Development (LVCD), World Vision Tanzania’s (WVT), initiative helps farmers to grow quality crops, increase productivity and facilitates access to competitive markets. World Vision and TOSCI gave the group their first bulk of rice seeds and provided training on rice seed production.
World Vision Tanzania, Market Facilitator, Richard Messayi says: “growing of seeds is a complex process not only because you have to consider isolation distance, but also because you have to follow a specific criteria set by government”.
Despite the struggles the group is determined to triumph and has set the ambitious goal of producing tomato and onion seeds in the near future!