Agro researchers from the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and the grapes farmers as seen inspection development of grape seedlings nursery at the Chinangali II vineyard this week in Chamwino District, Dodoma region. (Photo: By Our Photographer)

By VALENTINE OFORO, DODOMA

THE Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) has successfully produced more than 770,000 grapes seedlings in an effort to improve production and productivity of the vital economic cash crops in the country.

The seedlings produced at the Dodoma – based TARI- Makutupora Centre and at the famous Chinangali II vineyard include a mixture of the table, wine and dry grapes.

The impressive development attained within a period of five months is part of efforts by the state-owned institution to comply with directives from Prime minister Kassim Mjaliwa to revive performance of the key sub- sector.

In August this year minister Majaliwa tasked TARI to embark on viable strategies to fuel for professional cultivation of table and wine grapes with an eye to stimulate performance of the country’s wine sector, among others.

Giving an interview over the development, the national coordinator for the viticulture research program at TARI, Saada Hussein said the target was to produce at least 1million seedlings in a year.

She detailed that out of the so far produced seedlings, at least 17,000 seedlings are of table grapes and 160,000 of wine grapes, all produced at the Makutupora centre, whereby the remaining 600,000 seedlings at the Chinangali II farm are a mixture of both, table and wine grapes.

She informed that the government has so far dished- out at least 80m/- out of the  200m/- it pledged for the purpose of supporting the sector.

With a mandate to disseminate technologies and best agronomic practices towards the farmers and processors, Hussein said the Makutupora centre has launched a fresh strategy to train the farmers and extension officers.

“Since received directives from the prime minister, the centre has so far managed to impart a total of  70 Agri students from the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) with best agronomic practices for grapes cultivation as well as 73 extension officers from Mpwapwa and Kondoa districts,” she said.

And she added that a total of 26 extension officers from the Dodoma City Council were similarly trained at the recently established centre for Agricultural Technology Hub (ATH) at the Nanenane area.

” In general, a total of 450 farmers have already been trained at the Makutupora and Nanenane Center, but the actual target is to reach out to at least 500,000 farmers,” she unveiled.

For his part, the director of TARI- Makutupora Center, Dr. Cornel Masawe expressed that the centre was expected to introduce at least four new wine varieties from South Africa.

He named the varieties which are expecting to arrive in the country in a near future as Cabinet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Merlot, to mention but a few.

” The imported new varieties are projected to play a key role in heightening the performance of the local wine sector by giving the processors a multiple choice of raw materials for bottling best wines,” he expressed.

However, he said the centre was currently carrying a special trial of about five new varieties of table and grapes wine, being in concerted efforts to ensure farmers are equipped with enough varieties.

He named the varieties under the trial as Syrah (wine grape) whereby table grapes include Black Rose, Queen of Vineyard and Alphonse Lavallee, and Ruby Seedless (dry wine).

Through the process, Dr Masawe said the seedlings are going to be evaluated over their performance at different agro-ecological zones, before being selected, and thereafter, inspected and certified by the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI) for further promotion.

Apart from that, he said the centre was currently undertaking a special project to improve its gemplazium collection with an eye to ensuring for a high quality of the grape seeds.

Elirehema Swai, the coordinator for research and innovation at TARI Makutupora Center said to fetch the intended results, the institute has decided to dedicate more efforts in building farmers’ capacity on how professional to prepare the farms, preparation of seedings, uses fertilizer and other needed inputs.

“The plan is to ensure the farmers adopt modern agro- practices, including use of cement, iron and plastic pillars instead of using tree pillars. However, the target is also to empower the farmers with sounding knowledge on irrigation systems, pesticide as well as how to mitigate common grape diseases as powdery and down mildew,” he stated.

He also spoke over the plan to conduct a region-wide survey to collect reliable data on the number of available active farmers in order to stand a better chance to service them (farmers) more professional.

“Together with that, TARI Mlingano is expecting to conduct a countrywide soil research to determine all regions with potential for the cultivation of the crop,” he informed.

Daines Sanga, researcher (Natural resource management) said the centre was also in the process to improve its seedlings gemplazium nursery in order to provide the farmers with improved and quality seedlings.

Marry Hassan, principal agriculture field officer (PAFO), said there was a good response among the farmers in adopting the cultivation of table grapes, ever than before.

The Makutupora centre has been designated to undertake grape researches, disseminate relevant technologies as well as assist the farmers to come aware and adopt best agronomic practices in cultivating the prestigious economic cash crop.

Tanzania is placed second after South Africa for brewing the best wines within the continent, but there are only two wine grape varieties grown in the country, Makutupora Red and Chenin White, a situation that limits the production of wider varieties of wines.

Research proved that Tanzania has the potential weather to produce grapes with high sugar contents, which is useful in processing wines of a high alcoholic per cent (from 12 to 14 per cent), more than the rest counties in the world where the crop is grown.

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