The Times of Tanzania
Eastern Africa News Network

‘Mchicha,’ the Pigweed Vegetable dissapearing from Tanzania but sprouting in Ukraine

The popular green leafy Amaranthus or pigweed, known locally as Mchicha is among the vegetables about to disappear from Tanzania as well as many parts of Africa as effects of climate change take toll on the continent.

On the other hand, Mchicha, the popular veggie delicacy which tastes better with Ugali, seems to be currently flourishing in Eastern Europe with Ukraine becoming the major grower of this edible pigweed.

This among the observations that came up during the agricultural experts meeting in Arusha.

On the other hand, the Agriculture Sector in the country and around the world is also facing a serious predicament because most of the seeds currently used to grow food and cash crops are disappearing at an alarming rate.

That was revealed here by the Director of the World Vegetable Center, Dr Gabriel Rugalema during the five day training workshop on germplasm conservation and quality management.

“It is not just the seeds for food and cash crops that are disappearing, but also other important kernels used for extraction of vital medicines, including cancer treatment,” said Dr Rugalema.

According to the expert, the disappearance of vegetables as well as other seeds is among the effects of climate change, taking a drastic toll on the environment and is among the topics of the training.

The course gathered more than 40 delegates in person, and another 100 participants who attended virtually online, representing national gene banks from more than 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The sessions taking place at the World Vegetable Center’s Eastern and Southern Africa regional office in the Usa-River area of Arusha, also covered the topic on connecting gene banks to society.

The event went in sync with the World Vegetable Canter’s Golden jubilee which now spans four regional centers, with projects in more than 50 countries worldwide.

On her part, the acting director of crop production in the Ministry of Agriculture, Beatrice Banzi said it is high time Tanzania and other African countries invested heavily in facilities for long-term storage of seeds.

It was discussed that most plant breeders around the globe have discovered the importance of having access to an extensive set of germplasm for their breeding needs.

And for the modern growers, some are more concerned in looking for novel nutritional traits, or simply to improve yield and resilience.

Emmanuela Swai is the Acting Manager of the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) who said majority of farmers are concerned most people include heat and drought tolerance among their objectives, and some of the materials in the germplasm system

Germplasm is the term used to describe the seeds, plants, or plant parts useful in crop breeding, research, and conservation efforts.

Plants, seeds, or cultures are germplasm when maintained for the purposes of studying, managing, or using the genetic information they possess.

The World Vegetable Center is the only global center that works exclusively on vegetable research and development.

The Center is helping to overcome malnutrition and poverty, and is improving the health of both rural and urban people by increasing the production, quality and consumption of nutritious vegetables.

The current strategy (2017-2025) is focused on three outcome themes; safe and sustainable value chains, vegetable diversity and improvement, and healthy diets.

This workshop will strengthen the skills and technical capacities of national gene bank staff, researchers and professionals involved in the management of seed collections, and will help to ensure that they make them increasingly available for in breeding programs that support food and nutrition security.

Training sessions covered among other things good practices in germplasm classification, conservation and safety back-up; seed testing and viability monitoring of African vegetables; seed inventory, distribution and data management with advanced tools; enhancing the use of vegetable germplasm and linkages with society; and gene bank quality management systems.

Lectures, seminars and practical sessions were given by renowned international gene bank and plant genetic resources experts from Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Training combines theory on international gene bank standards and good practices, and hands-on sessions to increase exposure to advanced technologies and tools used in contemporary gene bank quality management. To register for online participation, follow this link.

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