“The Ministry, and specifically the Directorate of Research and Development, immensely commends SIMLESA’s participatory approach and would like to recommend it to other research and development partners both at national and international levels. By any means, this approach won’t ignore or omit farmer participation in variety dissemination, as was the case in the past. This participation exactly addresses the value chain approach that has been over emphasized by the Agricultural Sector Development Program that we are implementing in our country,” stated Fidelis Myaka (director of Research and Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Tanzania) in a speech read on his behalf by Ruth B. Madulu, Agricultural Research Institute (ARI)-Mikocheni at the recently concluded Tanzania SIMLESA 2012 Progress Review and 2013 Planning Meeting in Arusha.
Myaka called on other projects in Tanzania to emulate the SIMLESA (Sustainable Intensification of Maize and Legume Cropping Systems in Southern and Eastern Africa) initiative in using the very successful participatory approach in project implementation. The approach includes the participatory variety selection trials, mother-baby trials, and on-farm maize and pigeon pea intercropping via conservation agriculture demonstrations and the Innovation Learning Platform (ILeP). ILeP brings together partners and collaborators from the public and private sectors, private seed companies, community-based organizations, farmer groups and associations, regulatory bodies, and agro-processors. “The different partners/collaborators ensure ownership of the participatory SIMLESA technology development and transfer process, faster promotion, dissemination and adoption of the released technologies, and also increase of impact to the beneficiaries,” explained Myaka.
Mulugetta Mekuria, SIMLESA project leader, noted that there are challenges that still need to be overcome: obtaining scientific evidence that SIMLESA options are better than what farmers currently have; documenting and publication of the processes and results for dissemination; reaching farmers with SIMLESA technologies; and engaging other partners. He appealed to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to consider increasing funding to SIMLESA in Tanzania. “Our country requires additional funding to spill over the successes of SIMLESA to neighboring districts with similar agro-ecologies to districts implementing the project.” Out of the seven agro-ecological zones, SIMLESA is being implemented in only two, covering five districts, namely, Karatu and Mbulu in the northern zone, and Gairo, Kilosa, and Mvomero in the eastern zone. Mekuria noted that expanding the initiative to other areas is bound to have a huge impact on food security in Tanzania considering the importance of the technologies and crops being promoted. “Maize is Tanzania’s number one staple crop which is grown all over the country on more than two million hectares. The majority of Tanzanians derive their livelihoods on maize and it is now becoming the staple of choice even for those tribes which some years ago did not eat it. It is the number one food crop in each of the seven zones of the country. Maize is also one of the few national food security crops and also provides cash to a large population of the maize farming community.”
According to Mekuria, the objectives of the meeting were to evaluate and review 2011/2012 season activities; identify major achievements and results by sites, objectives, and milestones; identify technical and operational constraints; suggest possible and feasible solutions; develop 2012/2013 plan of activities and budgets based on past season results; and formulate SIMLESA Tanzania calendar for 2013. The meeting was attended by scientists from Selian Agricultural Research Institute, ARI-Ilonga, CIMMYT and SIMLESA, International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), and ACIAR; farmers; ILeP stakeholders; Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Council of South Africa; the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA); seed companies; and private sector representatives from Tanzania.