Benefits push farmers to prefer maize to coffee

Some farmers in Arusha Region are shifting from growing coffee to maize as the food crop has proved to be more promising.

According to Mr Ignas Swai, a retired researcher with the Tengeru Horticultural Research and Training Institute, farmers in the region find maize paying more because harvests can be made three times in a year.

He told journalists on a visit organised by Bioscience for Farming in Africa (B4FA) Fellowship recently that an acre of improved maize variety can earn a farmer anywhere in the range of 1.2m/- to 1.5m/- in a year, while a similar size of land planted with coffee can earn less than 200,000/-.

Mr Swai also pointed out that maize farming was less expensive compared to coffee growing.

Mr Gerald Nkya, a maize farmer, affirmed that he harvests his crop three times a year and the returns were good and satisfactory, enabling him to meet his basic obligations.

“With adequate water, fertiliser and absence of diseases, the returns are always huge,” he said.

The shift in farming from other crops such as coffee and wheat has raised maize output, reducing the country’s maize shortage.

Production of maize for smallholder farmers increased by 5 tonnes per hectare in 2011/2012 from 1.5 tonnes, according to data from the ministry for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives.

Also Mr Nkya stated that improved maize varieties were drought tolerant and required less irrigation as well as kept farmers’ cultivation costs lower.Maize is Tanzania’s most critical cereal crop. It is grown by the vast majority of rural households across the country.
Source: The Citizen, www.thecitizen.co.tz, reported by Victor Karega in Arusha
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