Tomato growers in Tanzania’s Morogoro region find it difficult to market their produce and other highly perishable crops for several reasons. Much of their produce never reaches consumers because inadequate storage or transportation. Other times, items cannot be sold due to the length of time between harvest and purchase. Farmers often have to lower the price of their produce in order to offload perishable items. These challenges are particularly difficult for smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs with limited resources and small harvests. Diseases and pests affecting tomato crops can have severe consequences for smallholder farmers, particularly those with limited diversification in terms of the crops they produce.
Lilian Mpinga was one of the first students sponsored by iAGRI to undertake postgraduate training in the United States in 2011. She attended the University of Florida and completed an MSc in Horticulture. Her studies prepared her with a broad background and foundation in general agriculture, specifically horticultural production focused on vegetables. Her goal upon her return? To introduce tomato grafting to farmers and agricultural extension officers in Tanzania. Her research aimed to evaluate the utility of grafting techniques and technology in Tanzania by testing two rootstocks (eggplant EG195 and tomato Hawaii 7996) on fruit quality and yield. Grafting involves taking the top of a tomato seedling and attaching it to a rootstock grown that is resistant to diseases.
Lilian recently presented the results of her research at the iAGRI Graduate Student Research Workshop held at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) from May 5-6, 2016. She presented Tomato Grafting for Low-Resource Open-Field Production in Tanzania. After working on her project and testing the technique in Tanzania, she found that grafted plants produce improved vegetables. ‘’It’s the best of both worlds combining simple tools and special cultivation techniques. Grafting is an environmentally safe alternative to fumigating the soil with methyl,’’ she stated.
Having seen the potential, the technology was included in a portfolio of projects funded by iAGRI as a Collaborative Research project. Lilian was incorporated into a multidisciplinary team. The research team included Delphina Mamiro, a plant pathologist, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Fellow, and SUA Senior Lecturer; Theodosy Msogoya, Associate Professor in Horticulture and Plant Propagation at SUA; Carlene Chase, an Associate Professor at University of Florida’s Horticultural Sciences Department; and Xin Zhao, also an Associate Professor at University of Florida’s Horticultural Sciences Department for a project on Improvement of Tomato Productivity and Quality in Tanzania through Reduction of Adverse Effects of Biotic and Abiotic Stresses. Their research findings were recently presented at the 2016 Collaborative Research Workshop that took place at SUA from April 28-29, 2016 at SUA.
As part of the research, farmers were trained in the management and recognition of disease and tomato grafting as an alternative to pesticide application. Nearly 150 farmers were trained as a result of the research in villages such as Kitete and Ruhembe in the region of Morogoro. Farmers were trained in different aspects of tomato production such as the mixing of growth media components, seed sowing, irrigation, and advanced horticultural practices.
In Tanzania, the consumption of tomatoes have increased substantially in the past ten years. The price per kilo has nearly doubled between 2008 and 2012. Initial results of the research, outreach, and farmer uptake activities have improved techniques to control soil-borne diseases of tomato, improve productivity and disease resistance. Today, continued training in tomato grafting is conducted at the SUA Horticultural Demonstration Facility (HDF), a collaborative project between the Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA), the Tanzania Agricultural Productivity Program (TAPP), and iAGRI. The combination of advanced horticultural technologies such as grafting, improved good agricultural practices, and postharvest handling practices contribute to increased tomato productivity.