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How nuclear technologies helped Zanzibar to improve rice quality

Though economic development in Zanzibar has been associated with tourism, agriculture contributes greatly to the Islands' economy and food security. In Zanzibar agriculture is the main source of income for around 70 percent of the population.

Zanzibar's agricultural sector received a boost last year, with horticulture recording a 10 percent growth.Today the horticultureis one of the fastest growing and vibrant subsector on the island.  Though its returns are much lower than the $63 million that Zanzibar earns annually from cloves  —  its main export —  horticulture offers new opportunities for farmers, especially given the fluctuating clove prices.

Six years ago, nearly 80 percent of vegetables consumed in the Isles were sourced outside Zanzibar; however, with the growth of the tourism industry and the constant demand from restaurants and hotels, Zanzibar farmers are gradually taking up vegetables and fruit as a source of income.
Among various harvesting crops the most popular one is also rice. In recent years the demand for the grain was so high that Zanzibar started to import nearly 80% of the rice it needed. Farmers say they could close that gap if they had adequate agricultural extension services to guide them on the use of fertilizers and other modern technology.

Zanzibar's Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources elaborated special strategy with a view of increasing to try to increase rice production by developing irrigation systems, training farmers and introducing improved varieties of rice.

The local farmers decided to made improvements by employing a mutation induction to make rice seed more resistant to diseases, water shortages or high level of salinity in the soil.

Mutation is a natural process, and can take years. In this case safe level of irradiation can significantly speed up the process.  

In order to cultivate more varieties a special biotechnology laboratory on the island has been equipped in Zanzibar with special technologies. The nuclear technology application help local farmers to go forward and create modified seeds resistant to large number of diseases.

By increasing the local production of rice through the introduction of improved and new varieties, Zanzibar can reduce its dependence on imports, save money and create more jobs.

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