A discussion with Muhogo Bora’s Technical Lead, Kiddo Mtunda
Muhogo Bora, which directly translates to “better cassava” in Swahili, launched in 2021 to provide support to develop and expand cassava seed systems in Tanzania with targeted outreach to the Western Zone, Central and Southern Highlands regions. We sat down with Muhogo Bora’s Technical Lead, Kiddo Mtunda, to learn more about the program and how it will impact food security, economic resilience and gender equality in Tanzania.
First things first, why cassava?
When I worked as a researcher in the program known as Farming Systems Research, I became interested in cassava because of its ability to flourish in harsh conditions and its role as a crucial food security crop for millions of Africans — especially given that it is grown by women as food security crop and for cash income. Also, because of its resilience, cassava will play an important role in ensuring that local food systems can withstand the upcoming shocks of climate change. That cassava is both important now and in the future speaks to its versatility and the importance of the Muhogo Bora project.
What are the challenges that cassava growers face in Tanzania?
The main challenges include poor access to high-quality planting material, continued use of landraces that have low yielding potential, varieties that are susceptible to disease and pests, and an unreliable seed market. I believe Muhogo Bora will help farmers overcome these by building the capacity of farmers to produce high-quality planting materials of improved varieties. And within that effort, it’s important to me and my colleagues that we establish specific methods targeting women farmers to improve their access to superior planting materials of improved varieties.
Why women farmers?
I have seen first-hand in Tanzania that women play an essential role in agriculture and food production. However, their ability to reap profits is limited by a lack of resources, such as quality planting materials. Therefore, there is a great need for Muhogo Bora to engage women in cassava seed multiplication. First, to build their capacity in seed systems; secondly, to impart knowledge of cassava husbandry and good agronomic practices; and thirdly, to create opportunities for them to join cassava seed entrepreneurships, which are groups of registered farmers who produce certified stems for sale to their neighbors. Greater access to these entrepreneurships will allow women more opportunities to earn profits from their cassava crops, which in turn increases the food security of entire households.
Why Muhogo Bora?
Muhogo Bora is going to disseminate products to rural farmers with a focus on women growers. One of these products included improved, high-yielding cassava varieties that are tolerant to major virus diseases, and also feature characteristics wanted by consumers. Building on previous work from the NextGen Cassava project we have robust data regarding consumer preferences, including its utility to be processed into flour and other processed states.
Since cassava is a staple crop in Tanzania, farmers, processors, and consumers will all benefit from enhanced food security and extra income accrued throughout cassava production to processing to consumption. Muhogo Bora will strive to empower women and rural farmers as seed entrepreneurs, so their successes as seed entrepreneurs will attract young people to agriculture and build the next generation of cassava farmers in Tanzania. In addition, farmers will produce more cassava to supply market demand for food, feed and industrial raw materials, which will also contribute to food security and improve income and livelihoods across Tanzania.
I know how important cassava is within my country and through our work in Muhogo Bora I am eager to see how improved cassava equals improved livelihoods for more and more people.
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