WED: Butiama is where women’s groups have taken over control of our agro-biotechnology


THOSE lucky enough to make it to Butiama Village, birthplace of founding president and Father of the Nation, are very lucky indeed, not least, our very own Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who will be there to grace this year’s World Environment Day (WED).

Here, they will bear witness to a village now in a hurry to become an urban centre; this once sleepy village, served by equally desolate and dusty roads is now truly coursed on a path to soon become among the leading ‘seats of excellence’ in agricultural biology.

The mud huts surrounded the Catholic Church where Nyerere used to pray also tell a different story these days. To begin with, Mwitongo itself is now home to an eco-tourism lodge, a thriving cultural site also housing a library where Mwalimu spent his pastime writing and reading, signing off everyone of those books after reading them.

And, with the beatification of Mwalimu across the border in Uganda on the eve of World Environment Day, Butiama will now add some “heavenly” feather to its fame, knowing our own soonto- be canonised Saint Julius will be praying for this country and people – his ‘other children’ as his former housekeeper, Dorothy Musoga, once put it.

On the agricultural front, the women of Butiama are leading their menfolk – often given to booze and idling – into new frontiers of agro-biotechnology, thanks to the Mikocheni Agricultural Institute (MARI), and in particular, Prof Joseph Ndunguru and his network of researchers and field extension officers.

If Mwalimu were to come back to life today, and possibly on this auspicious World Environment Day – and landing slap-bang into Butiama -- he would probably become speechless momentarily, then recover … only to bear witness to a philosophy he spent his last days on earth preaching.

Almost out of prophecy, the Jaudi women’s group in Kisamwene Village of Butiama District are successfully – and profitably – farming the “Mkombozi” cassava variety which they received from MARI.

The seed ‘Mkombozi’ derives its name from the Kiswhaili word for liberator, which, indeed, it is! Alex M. Bethuel, the area extension worker who provides technical backstopping to this cassava group, is all praises about the Mkombozi variety, saying it is resistant to cassava mosaic disease, one of the two virus diseases devastating cassava harvests within Mara region.

And, talking giving the people basic tools, the scientists at MARI multiplied this resistant variety from what they call ‘tissue culture’ to produce disease-free plantlets.

Cassava brown streak disease is a viral disease that has devastated cassava fields within the Great Lakes region, plus Tanzania, and is transmitted by white flies – also identified by Tanzanian scientists, nearly 150 years after the disease itself was discovered by German entomologists who, however, couldn’t nail down the vector.

Within a few months of their onset, this obnoxious insect could literally ‘delete’ the smiles from these women farmers. On this WED, therefore, Ms Samia and her entourage will be walking, not just through a prophecy-come-true but also through the rich harvest of world-class research by our own sons and daughters.

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