Tanzanian farmers find solutions to salt-affected soils and dwindling rice yields

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Tanzanian rice farmers in Mbarali, Iringa, Same, and Moshi Districts are experiencing a major decline and even total losses in rice yields under extreme conditions. The problem is a threat to food security and is primarily driven by climate change. (Photo: Climate-smart African rice)

Increased soil salinity can lead to significant problems such as reduced plant growth, plant water stress and nutrient imbalance, and soil degradation. Ultimately, it causes decreased plant yields, less income for farmers, and potentially higher food prices for consumers. A study showed that Tanzanian rice farmers have adapted locally available and affordable solutions to cope with high soil salinity.

Working under ClimateSmart African rice, a project that develops flood- and salinity-tolerant rice in an African context, researchers from Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), the University of Copenhagen, and the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute presented management practices developed by Tanzanian farmers to help them deal with high salinity levels in their rice lands.

“The problem of salt-affected soils and dwindling rice yields are increasing across many irrigation schemes in the country,” says Susan Nchimbi Msolla, a professor at SUA’s College of Agriculture. “Knowing that the farmers are aware of the problem and that they have their ways of combating the problem is very important for researchers before introducing new interventions such as salt-tolerant varieties.”

Soil salinity occurs when there is an increased level of soluble salts or sodium in the soil. This may be caused by irrigation practices, inadequate drainage systems, and the natural weathering of minerals. Increased soil salinity can lead to significant problems such as reduced plant growth, plant water stress and nutrient imbalance, and soil degradation. Ultimately, it causes decreased plant yields, less income for farmers, and potentially higher food prices for consumers.

That is the case in Mbarali, Iringa, Same, and Moshi Districts where rice farmers are experiencing a major decline and even total losses in rice yields under extreme conditions. The problem is a threat to food security and is primarily driven by climate change.

But how do rice farmers respond to this serious threat to their harvests and livelihoods?

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