KEY agriculture stakeholders have called on the government to place more focus on special training on sunflower farming to its extension officers to improve productivity of the cash crop.
They made the call here during a recent meeting with board members of the Agricultural Markets Development Trust (AMDT), pointing out lack of extension officers with specialization on sunflower farming remains as a major challenge for the cash crop agriculture.
“Shortage of extension officers has also become a serious challenge for smallholder farmers in sunflower growing areas,” said Mr Yohana Mwanjara, a Dodoma-based sunflower seeds and agricultural inputs supplier.
Central zone regions which include Singida and Dodoma have ideal soil and climate for sunflower production. Sunflower farming is set to boost industrial economy in the Central Zone regions by providing oilseeds to sunflower kernel processing plants for edible oil production.
Mr Mwanjara noted that some extension officers were lacking knowledge on modern technologies applications in agriculture hence the need for introduction of special training on the technologies applications.
“We often experience such challenge when supplying agricultural inputs and seeds to farmers in remote rural areas,” said the sunflower seeds and agricultural inputs supplier.
Kongwa District Agricultural Officer, Mr Jackson Shija, said the government was working on shortage of extension officers, saying the shortage of extension officers poses a challenge to reach more farmers.
“The number of extension officers does not cope with the number of farmers thus posing a challenge when deploying them to field,” said the District Agricultural Officer.
Dodoma Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS), Mr Kessy Maduka, said the Dodoma regional authorities had started to take steps to address the challenges of lack of extension officers with specialization on sunflower farming.
He pointed out among the steps as selecting the Hombolo-based Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute to dedicate its activities on two cash crops namely sunflower and sesame to improve production.
“The Institute will now start offering special training on sunflower and sesame farming to extension officers,” he said.
Mr Maduka observed that some people have a mindset that agricultural officers have knowledge on all crops.
“We came up with the idea of upgrading our Hombolo-based Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute to specialize on two cash crops after realizing the problem. Our extension officers will now receive training with specialization on the two crops from the Institute,” said RAS.
Mr Maduka called on different agriculture stakeholders to join hands with the government in effort to uplift the level of sunflower productivity in the country in order to promote industrial economy.
AMDT’s Project Manager, Mr Martin Mgallah, said AMDT had embarked on a project to support smallholder sunflower farmers, saying the project facilitates imparting knowledge on modern farming to smallholder farmers to improve productivity of sunflower.
“The project facilitates training on modern farming to smallholder farmers to improve productivity of sunflower crop. It also provides farmers with variety of sunflower seeds,” said the AMDT’s Project Manager.
Mr Mgallah said AMDT came up with the idea to carry out the project to support smallholder sunflower farmers to uplift the level of sunflower productivity in the country, saying sufficient edible oil would help the country to save millions of money and foreign currency used for importation of the cooking oil.
Mr Jackson Mazoya, a sunflower farmer from Kongwa District, expressed gratitude to AMDT and Dodoma Regional authorities for the initiative to improve sunflower farming, saying the project would address a number of challenges facing the smallholder farmers.
AMDT has been carrying a number of projects in 15 regions in the mainland to support smallholder farmers.