The use of improved maize varieties in Tanzania
Lyimo, S.; Mduruma, Z.; De Groote, H.
Maize is the most important food crop in Tanzania, covering 45% of the cultivated area. Maize farmers have adopted many improved maize varieties but different studies have produced different estimates of adoption rates. A survey was, therefore, conducted in 2001 to estimate the area in improved maize seed, to collect opinions regarding maize recycling, constraints to production and strategies to obtain improved maize seed. The seed sector sold an average 7,750 tons of improved maize seed per year from 1997 to 2000, but also indicate a clear negative trend in sales. While during the 1997/1998 season 9,500 tons were sold, it was reduced to 6,660 tons in the last season. Although the amount of hybrid seed sold was roughly the same for the three seasons, it was the sales of open pollinated varieties (OPVs) that decreased to less than a half in the third year. Based on an estimated national maize area of 2 million ha and a seed rate of 15 kg/ha, the estimate of the area planted with fresh improved maize seed was 26%. Considering the use of OPVs that have been recycled for two years, the area grown with improved maize seed was 46%. Drought, low prices of the produce, pests and diseases, and high input prices were mentioned by the extension officers as the most important constraints for maize production. The high costs of improved seed, poor availability and lack of knowledge were some of the reasons why farmers did not use improved seed. The major strategies farmers use to obtain improved seed were purchase from agro-dealers, recycling of their own seed, and the formation of Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs). Since the survey, seed sales have increased but this increase is mostly in hybrids, and has been accompanied by an increase in area , so the proportion of maize area in improved varieties remains at a low 27%. Research and development efforts should, therefore, be directed to solve the farmers? major production constraints such as drought, lack of markets and low produce prices, and pests and diseases. Knowledge of how to obtain and grow improved varieties, including good husbandry practices, is critical in adopting improved varieties.