TANZANIA – Tanzania is set to benefit form a new cassava project aimed at establishing an affordable commercial cassava seed system.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Best cassava project, aims at building an economically sustainable seed system through development of disease resistant cassava cultivars.

This is part of efforts to ensure farmers of one of the leading foods crops in Tanzania have access to high yielding plant materials and improved cassava production.

The project has partnered the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (Meda), an association of Christians in business based in the US and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), reports The Citizen.

Additionally, the project will incorporate the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (Tosci), a government agency responsible for certification of crop seeds.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also launched the Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA) project in seven countries across Africa.

Focusing on five crops – groundnut, common bean, cowpea, sorghum and millet, AVISA aims to increase productivity, profitability, resilience and marketability of nutritious grain legume and cereal crops.

The project will be implemented in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda.

The projects integrates modernization of crop breeding, strong market orientation, gender responsiveness and nutrition traits, besides public-private partnership focus as some major components to ensure optimal delivery.

Speaking at the launch in Tanzania, Hon. Japheth Hasunga, Minister for Agriculture, said that through the initiative farmers are poised to gain high quality seed of improved varieties of crops for better productivity, improved nutrition, and income opportunities.

“Agriculture contributes to 29.1% of our GDP in Tanzania and approximately 70% of our population depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Pearl millet, extremely high in iron, zinc and folate can reduce anemia, while legumes are high in calcium and protein, particularly important for growth and development.

AVISA comes at a time when we have ambitious Sustainable Development Goals around food security and nutrition,” he said.

Dr Jeff Ehlers, Program Officer, Gates Foundation, emphasized the importance of partnership towards ensuring the project success.

“This is a strong opportunity to learn from one another and grow together. The private sector approach in AVISA can mean much greater gains for farmers.

Climate is shifting and new varieties bred in the new climate are needed to help smallholder farmers deal with the challenge,” Dr Jeff said.

The AVISA project consolidates gains made by earlier initiatives that the Foundation funded including Tropical Legumes, HOPE and HarvestPlus.

AVISA will be implemented by ICRISAT, IITA and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and has partnered the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) in Tanzania.