GENETICIST Donagh Berry, animal health expert Riona Sayers and grassland researcher Deirdre Hennessy are among a team of Teagasc specialists heading to Africa next week to help Tanzanian smallholders improve their farming techniques.
Dr Berry, who is better known to Irish farmers as 'Mr Genotyping', will be encouraging Tanzanian farmers to adopt more scientific animal husbandry techniques.
These will include weighing animals to estimate milk yields, and recording calving dates and bull matings for cows so that farmers can accurately estimate their next calving dates.
There are approximately 15.5 million smallholder farmers in Tanzania. Most of these farmers work very small plots of about four acres in size.
Food is grown mostly for domestic consumption, with maize, rice and cassava being the most common crops.
Mechanisation is rare on Tanzanian farms, with 70pc of farmers still relying on the hand hoe to cultivate crops, while 20pc use ox-ploughs and only 10pc have tractors.
Pastureland in Tanzania has shrunk from 35m hectares of land under livestock in 2005 to 24m hectares this year.
This contraction of grazing-based livestock production is due to low productivity, inadequate advisory services, weak producer organisations and poor access to market.
There is also a conflict between land being used for livestock production versus crop production, leisure hunting and tourism.
Nonetheless, the country was recently described in World Bank study as 'undoubtedly one of Africa's sleeping agricultural giants".
At over 10 times the size of Ireland, Tanzania is one of the largest countries in East Africa but is still one of the poorest nations in the world.
In October, another Teagasc team comprising Roger Schulte, Pat Murphy and Seamus Crosse will travel to Tanzania with government agency Irish Aid to advise on restructuring of the agency's research and advisory services.
Irish Aid provides €4m funding annually to Tanzania, mainly through the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP).
This fund is used to develop improved advisory services for Tanzanian farmers, as well as better access to seeds, irrigation and cultivation.
- Caitriona Murphy
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