Tanzania’s non-chemical fertiliser is currently gaining ground just as the government of Zimbabwe is pressing on with its ambitious plan to revolutionise rural agriculture. If the plan succeeds, it could see remote areas of the country being transformed into exotic fruit production hubs.
Under the plan, each family will receive 10 saplings of apple, granadilla, pecan nuts, apple, guava, mango, lemon, avocado pears and macadamia trees.
Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, said the government has considered and approved a report on the State of Preparedness for the 2021-2022 Agricultural Season. “The nation is advised that the 2021-2022 season will witness the operationalisation of the Rural Presidential Horticulture Plan”, the minister said.
According to him, “the plan will target priority fruit trees, namely: passion fruit (Granadilla), pecan nuts, apple, guava, mango, lemon, avocado pears and macadamia. Each targeted household will be given 10 trees of each fruit variety, depending on suitability of the fruit tree to the agro-ecological regions and potential income to be generated. The first phase running to December 2021 has a target of 500 000 seedlings.”
Expectedly, the programme could result in 1.8 million rural households benefiting by 2023.
Hakika Organic Fertiliser is however, a locally manufactured, non-chemical fertilizer. It was launched in Tanzania’s Njombe region, and encountered enthusiasm and eagerness by extension officers and avocado growers.
Industry experts say the new product will improve soil health, promote productivity and contribute to increasing exports of fruits, greens and roots.
Retired extension officers, Sixtus Ngonyani, Florence Mapunda and Gerald Mhagama and avocado growers praised the efforts by researchers and manufacturers of the product and also government efforts towards paying attention to soil health.
Florence Mapunda said many farmers do not know that overuse of chemical fertilisers harms soil health. “They do not know this. But it is a fact. We must use fertilisers, but we have to be careful in using these fertiliser”, she cautioned.
Mapunda appealed to extension officers to encourage farmers to use the product along with animal droppings and composite.
Meanwhile, Dutch researchers have used new breeding techniques to develop a chicory variety that no longer contains bitter compounds.
Plant researcher at Katarina Cankar from Wageningen University & Research says: “In the European CHIC project, we are working on improved industrial chicory varieties (related to witloof) that contain dietary fibre and compounds that have potential medicinal properties.”
Chicory taproots are a source of inulin, a natural sweetener that is used in bread and dairy products and as dietary fibre for healthy intestinal function. “Inulin has a positive effect on the digestive health”, says Katarina Cankar.
“Normally, inulin must be separated from the bitter compounds (that are also in the root) as they cause a bitter taste. With new breeding techniques such as CRISPR-Cas, we have been able to develop a plant that no longer contains those bitter compounds. This will make the processing cheaper and easier, and in turn more sustainable, and will make a broader application of inulin possible.”