War against climate change

Stakeholders in the agricultural sector last week met and discussed ways of improving yields and enhancing livelihoods as El Nino stalks Southern Africa once again.

Among the stakeholders that converged in Harare were agronomists, plant breeders, statisticians, representatives of seed companies and research institutions, among others.

The two-day forum was organised by the Mexico-headquartered International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), which is working in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Plant Breeders Association.

Participants were drawn from the Sugar-cane Experimentation Station, Tobacco Research Station, Forestry Commission and the National Biotechnology Centre.

Mr Dean Muungani, the president of the Zimbabwe Plant Breeders Association, gave a brief summary on the importance of data analysis in seed production.

“We trained those that specialises in seed production on how to explore data, analyse it and then interpret it. Data analysis is an important part of the seed production line since analysing data helps improve the quality of their on-field trials and also in identifying better seed varieties,” Mr Muungani said.

Effective use of data analysis, according to Muungani, helps breeders identify and select seed varieties that best suit particular environments

“Basing on what I witnessed here, we are likely to see better output in terms of seed quality from breeders,” added Mr Muungani.

Data analysis and seed testing are highly specialised, technical jobs.

Juan Burgueno, a world renowned agricultural scientist and head of the Biometrics and Statistics Unit under the CIMMYT Genetic Resources Programme, was the main resource person.

Burgueno collaborated, during the training, with Fernando Toledo, another respected statistician who is based in Mexico.

According to Burgueno, the country is not lagging behind in matters to do with data analysis for agricultural production.

“Zimbabwe is on the same level with both South American and European countries in terms of proficiency in data analysis. The difference lies in the fact that some countries get more funding for data analysis than what people in this country get,” said Burgueno.

Toledo added that improved data analysis methods helps breeders identify and select seed varieties that best suit particular environments.

“The importance of effective data analysis techniques means that we are going to have better output in terms of seed quality from breeders. Such trainings enhance crop production, statistical genetics and experimental designs,” Toledo said.

Dr Dahlia Garwe, the general manager of the Tobacco Research Board, spoke highly about the training, which she said will go a long way in improving farmers’ livelihoods.

“As we all know, we are likely going to be facing the devastating effects of climate change induced drought. Improved data analysis techniques will help improve both the quality and quantity of drought-resilient seed varieties and that will improve livelihoods and activate industrial growth,” Dr Garwe said.