Cotton marketing season is scheduled for opening in the next few days amid grieving by majority of peasants whose farms have been badly damaged by pests despite the application of pesticides.
According to Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) Acting Director General Gabriel Mwalo, the 2016 crop marketing season is likely to be opened this second week of June. He is however concerned that production is likely to drop due to the destruction of the cash crop in the farms.
“We had earlier projected bumper harvests but due to the ineffectiveness of the bug killers, production is likely to drop drastically,” charges Mr Mwalo. Peasants specifically accuse Cotton Buyers and Ginners Association, UMWAPA, of supplying ineffective pesticides, which have subjected them to incalculable losses.
“UMWAPA have totally crippled my economic prospects… the Ninja pesticide which they supplied us doesn’t work,” says Mr Fikiri Kaholwe, a peasant in Ntono village in Geita District. He accuses the pesticide suppliers of opting for the cheap materials at the expense of farmers.
Mr Reuben Ntubirizyo, a Nkono villager, with ten-acres cotton farm, had planned to construct a decent family house and provide for his kin with the basic needs. But, the village’s renowned cotton grower not only has all his hopes for the decent house dashed but is also concerned of the huge debt he owes the cotton input suppliers.
“I don’t know how I’m going to feed and clothe my family,” laments Mr Ntumbirizyo, hinting that he owes the pesticide suppliers over 200,000/-, which he has no alternative of repaying. “Let me sit and wait, may be they will imprison me,” he says mournfully.
Hundreds of hapless cotton growers have their farms standing barren in Geita, Mwanza and Shinyanga Regions due to the destructive pests. Almost all interviewed farmers decry ineffective bug killers that have subjected them to destitution, leaving them with huge debts to pay. And, although experts advise on the best way to apply the insect repellents, farmers rule out the possibility of misapplication.
“We even took the pests and dropped them into the undiluted repellents, they (pests) didn’t die,” says Mr Ntumbirizyo. Farmers claim that, according to the trainings they receive on the best farming practices, there are three different types of bug killers that should be applied at different stages of the cotton plants.
“Surprisingly, UMWAPA supply us with only Ninja pesticide, from cotton planting to harvesting seasons,” charges Ibrahim Msigwa, a farmer and field officer for Geita and Nyang’wale Districts.
Some farmers demand compensation for the losses they have incurred, vowing never to repay the debts they owe the pesticide suppliers. UMWAPA Acting Chairperson Mohamed Sharif concedes that the pesticides were ineffective, blaming the Cotton Development Trust Fund (CDTF) from whom the inputs were sourced.
He says the association had tested the drugs and confirmed their ineptitude, expressing pity to the affected farmers. “It’s a serious problem for sure, I don’t know what happened, but something has to be done to rescue the situation.”
The TCB chief, although conceding the ineffective bug killers’ adverse effects on production of the cash crop, says compensation to farmers is unlikely. “Maybe arrangements can be made to excuse the pesticide debts,” says Mr Mwalo.
TCB, Arusha-based Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) and the pesticide supplier, Mukpar, conducted the field tests which proved the ineffectiveness of the pesticides, according to Mr Mwalo.
“TPRI took the sample for further laboratory tests to find out the key problem,” says the industry regulator, adding that the research institute is yet to release its report on the test findings. Majority of cotton growers under contract farming who relied on pesticide supplies on credit from UMWAPA have no hopes of harvesting.
Only the few who could afford buying the inputs on cash have cotton. “There were many effective pesticides on sale in the market but most peasants couldn’t afford buying on cash,” says Yuda Chirangu, a farmer at Mulumba village in Chato District’s Bwina ward.
The ineffective pesticides have seemingly disappointed thousands of farmers who rely on cotton as not only their major cash crop but also a source of prestige.
Cotton, one of the country’s major cash crop, supports the economy of about 14 million people mostly in the lake zone regions of Mwanza, Shinyanga, Geita, Simiyu, Mara and Kagera.
Though perceived as the traditional crop, most farmers are gradually snubbing the crop due to fluctuating prices, and now ineffective bug killers.