Ramadhani Majubwa is a Tanzanian horticultural expert sponsored by the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI) to study at the University of Florida (UF) in the United State of America. Before joining (iAGRI) scholarship, he was the holder of a Masters degree and an Assistant Lecturer in Crop Sciences and Horticulture at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania. After joining (iAGRI) in 2012, Majubwa pursued his PhD in Horticultural Sciences specializing in Postharvest with minor in food sciences at UF.
In a recent interview Majubwa said fruit growers in Tanzania face challenges of getting fruit to market without spoilage. Because of poor harvest methods, field packaging for transportation and inadequate storage facilities during marketing, fruit is typically no longer fresh by the time they reaches the consumers. Consequently, growers get low prices in the market and earn relatively little revenue from their crop.
Majubwa’s research dealt with mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulate Blanco) in both Florida and Tanzania. In Florida, his research focused on the postharvest response of cold-hardy, seedless cultivar to alternative rootstock and degreening temperatures. Whereas in Tanzania he worked on current and potential harvesting and handling practices to reduce postharvest losses along the value chain. His research was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Steven A. Sargent, his USA advisor at UF, and Prof. Theodosy A. Msogoya, his Tanzanian supervisor, at SUA.
Traditional harvesting methods (i) Drop- Catch method in which a harvester climb up the tree, pick and drop fruits to another person to catch or (ii) Fruit clipping by cutting pole attached with a netted bag (CP) cause mechanical damage on widely-used by farmers. Farmers and traders also use field packaging method that relay on bamboo baskets (BAMB) and bulk transport on trucks (BULK) which result in high postharvest losses. As an alternative, Majubwa through his research developed a harvesting method that use wooden ladder plus modified commercial harvesting bag made of polypropylene (L+B) and field packaging method involving method stackable plastics crates (SPC). He compared postharvest losses of the traditional harvesting and field packaging methods versus the new developed method.
In his research, the radder plus bag method of harvesting was found to reduce fruit loss at harvest by up to 15% and 2% of the cutting pole, and Crop Catch method respectively. The (L+B) harvest method also reduced fruit decay during (9 days) by >4% compared to (CP). On the other hand ,SPC reduced fruit decay during storage by 7.9% and 2.8% compared to BAMB and BULK, respectively ,These findings provide the best alternative harvesting and field packaging method for mandarin and related fruits intended for premium local and regional markets.
While in the USA, Majubwa participated in the iAGRI leadership fellows program, which was conducted over the internet using both live and recorded sessions so that iAGRI students could join from various locations where they were persuing degree studies or doing field research. He says the leadership program helped him to develop leadership habits and skills and to become more responsible, proactive, and self-confident.
Besides studying abroad, the scholarship exposed me to many new things such as learning in a different cultural context and international networking, and this exposure has helped me to gain global awareness and cultural sensitivity. “It has also provided me with business insights to improve the horticultural industry in Tanzania,’’he said.