The Citizen (Tanzania)
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Dar es Salaam. Maize famers have reason to celebrate as Tanzania joins other nations in introducing drought tolerant seeds, which will improve food security.

The new innovations are also expected to improve the livelihood of the rural communities, which engage mainly in small scale farming.This, according to researchers, is a good move in sustaining food security of the country whose population is expected to hit 134 million by 2050.Even as the researchers are working around the clock to solve low maize productivity, climate changes is still a headache for the innovators.

Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries assistant director Mr Jackson Nkuba said the researchers have been working tirelessly on different ecologies to see how they can boost the production of the country main staple crop.Mr Nkuba said they were currently working on improving maize seeds in a project known as Water Efficient Maize for Africa (Wema), disclosing that they have already come up with 11 new maize seeds, which are drought tolerant.

Maize is cultivated on between 2 to 3 million hectares in the country, however, it is severely affected by frequent severe droughts, which leads to low yields, triggering hunger and poverty."Following a number of challenges currently facing our farmers including drought, too much rains, insects, we are working tirelessly in a bid to come up with new innovations that will help them overcome the challenges," he said.

Mr Nkuba said the 11 new maize seeds are drought tolerant and stem borer protected hybrids using conventional, molecular breeding and biotechnology approaches.The seeds known as "Drought Tego Hybrids" were discovered between 2013 and 2016 and are currently undergoing trials in low and medium attitude areas such as Babati in Arusha and Kabuku in Tanga.

He said the projects are being implemented between the ministry, Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (Costech) and Division for Research and Development. The project is being implemented in five countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and South Africa, he added.

He noted that farmers need to be made aware of the improved seeds, which if planted well are capable of producing between 4 to 8 tons per hectare as compared to traditional seeds that can only produce 1.5 tons only.