CFAES helps increase agricultural productivity in Tanzania

In Tanzania, more than three-quarters of the labour force works in agriculture, most of them farmers with five or fewer acres who weed by hand and strap pesticide tanks to their backs to stop the myriad insects from devouring their crops. Dirt roads far outnumber paved ones.

In the fields of Tanzania and the classrooms and labs in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), faculty and graduate students from the college have worked with Tanzanians to help them increase their agricultural productivity and reduce food insecurity. Tanzania’s population is expected to double by 2050, and yet a third of the population already grapples with malnutrition. 

Since 2011, a $25.5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development has funded graduate degrees for 135 Tanzanians, including 21 educated in CFAES. Four attained doctorate degrees in the college; 17 received master’s degrees. 

Faculty in the college have helped strengthen the teaching, research and outreach capacity of Tanzania’s largest agriculture university as well as the government’s agriculture department. For seven years, CFAES faculty member David Kraybill lived in Tanzania. There, he and other faculty collaborated on research with Tanzanian scientists and trained others who play key roles in educating agriculture students and small farmers. 

“It’s not sustainable for me to say, ‘I’m an expert,’ and go there for two weeks, train them and then come back. We’re working with their scientists and students to build their capacity to get the job done,” said Mark Erbaugh, CFAES director of international programs in agriculture. “No nation in the world that is agrarian has moved forward until the country’s agriculture was modernized to be more productive.” 

Since faculty at CFAES began working in Tanzania, farmers there have adopted horticultural techniques including tomato grafting, new varieties of rice and tomatoes that fend off diseases common in East Africa, and improved pest management practices that have increased yields for small farmers. 

Though the USAID grant-funded program recently ended, CFAES faculty continue to work with Tanzanians. 

“We’re helping to strengthen their agricultural institutions to train the next generation so they can do the research to solve their own problems,” Erbaugh said. “They want to solve their own problems. Their farmers want to develop.” 

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