The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)


Biotechnology and its potential impact on Agriculture & Food Security in Tanzania

A. A. Mpunami,
K. Kullaya ,
Mikocheni Agriculture Research Institute,

Agricultural production is an important component of the Tanzanian economy, contributing about 40% to the GDP and employing 90% of the population. However, production levels for all food and cash crops, and the productivity of the farming systems are generally low. Thus the need for increasing production in order to feed the ever-increasing population without depleting the natural resources is very high. Biotechnology, including recombinant DNA technology offers many applications that could solve this dilemma. Agricultural related applications such as microbiology, cell and tissue culture, disease diagnostic techniques, genetic mapping techniques and those for genetic engineering of plants, that have been successfully used in the developed countries could be adopted.

Progress in the adoption and utilization of biotechnology research and its applications has remained rather slow in Tanzania, although the value of biotechnology for agricultural improvement is appreciated. Lack of resources has been one of the major limitations because research and development of the biotechnologies is very costly in terms of human and financial resources. Hence, only a few institutions have attempted to adopt the technologies.

Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI) is one of the Agricultural Research Institutes under the Directorate of Research and Development (DRD) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF) that has been actively participating in biotechnology research for the past eight years. The Institute adopted this approach in anticipation of the value biotechnology has in speeding up genetic improvement of plant species, more effective use and safe exchange of genetic resources, reducing production costs, protection from pests and diseases, food security and general poverty alleviation. The capabilities to use biotechnology have been gradually developed through training and infrastructure improvement by assistance from foreign donors. The main emphasis has been placed on disease diagnostics, genetic improvement of crops, and mass propagation techniques. The studied crops are coconuts, coffee, cashew, sweet potato, cassava, bananas, and pineapples.

This paper gives a summary of the ongoing biotechnology research projects at MARI, discusses problems, and suggests alternative methods for financing biotechnology research and for promoting its wider utilization in the country.

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