SP 6
< Organic Agriculture: The Better Alternative
03.08.2016 15:39 Age: 4 yrs
Category: SP 6

HORTINLEA in Tanzania: PhD student Oshingi Shilla talks about his research in Arusha, Tanzania

Oshingi Shilla (left) during field characterisation of Spiderplants in Arusha, Tanzania

Much of HORTINLEA’s efforts to promote the production and consumption of AIVs are concentrated on Kenya. In Kenya consortium members are distributed over seven research institutions—each with more linkages to farmers and associated partners. In Tanzania, although the only active partner, HORTINLEA’s collaboration with the World Vegetable Center, previously known as AVRDC, is equally important. In this article Mr. Oshingi, one of 32 PhD students in the project, talks about his work at the World Vegetable Center.

Please briefly introduce yourself and your work in HORTINLEA?

My name is Oshingi Shilla, a Tanzanian by residence. I did my studies for a BSc. in Environmental Sciences and Management at the Sokoine University of Agriculture and a MSc. in Biotechnology at the University of Dar es Salaam. I am now a PhD candidate in SP6 – Improving Varieties and Analysing Seed Systems – with HORTINLEA.

You work in Arusha. Can you tell us what you are doing exactly?

I am working with Spider plants as one of the traditional vegetables in Tanzania. Compared to Kenya, where there is a market for it, Spider plant is not very popular here. People are only consuming locally, although nowadays the consumption is increasing and few sell at local markets.

Not much has been done in terms of research either. We are trying to address this with our work. Right now I make a field characterisation of the Spider plant collection of the World Vegetable Center germplasm. The collection includes Spider plants from various countries: Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Burundi. In the field we characterise them morphologically. We want to see how diverse they are in order to gain fundamental information for breeding programmes.

And what are your expected results?

We hope that we have some advanced lines that we can use to develop varieties that are going to be accepted by the farmers. We do participatory research to learn about their preferences – what leaf size do they prefer, what colour: green or purple? There are no pure green and pure purple varieties but we found that farmers prefer the greener plants. In the collection we have more purple lines and so we try to increase the number of greens through screening.

We tried to carry out side line experiment on crossing some few lines of Spider plant. Information on crossing of the crop is very limited, but our results are encouraging.

Is there something else you would like to share? Something you enjoyed working with HORTINLEA?

I like working with the farmers very much. We had to involve them very early in the whole research process to get to know their problems. It is interesting for them. You have a lot of interaction and in that process you learn from each other. They are very knowledgeable. Sometimes they ask you a question and want to test you because they already know the answer. That is always great fun.

A longer version of this interview will be published in the upcoming HORTINLEA newsletter.