Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: How Irrigation System Could Boost Rice Farming

Mara — RORYA District Council in Mara Region is striving to increase irrigation farming from 180 hectares this year to 2179 by 2015. The entire district has 8,750 hectares suitable for irrigation farming but only 2% per cent of the land is being utilized at the moment.

Large part of Rorya is covered by Lake Victoria water and it is close to Mara River but the district is yet to utilize the water to boost food and cash crop production through irrigation farming. Instead bad weather is always cited to be the major source of hunger that always face majority of Rorya residents.

The government has sent over 1000 tonnes of food to rescue close to 185,000 people from acute hunger, over the past few days, according to figures available to the District Council Executive Director (DED). Construction of Irienyi Dam is one of the measures taken by Rorya District Council to encourage irrigation farming with the aim of improving food security a well boosting income of small peasants in the area.

Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda visited the dam during his long week of Mara region a few days ago and urged Irienyi villagers to utilize it fully for their own development. "I believe that you will be able to harvest 30 to 40 sacks(bags) of rice from every hectare if you practice modern farming methods," Mr Pinda told hundreds of villagers shortly after inspecting the dam.

A group of about 150 small peasants have started cultivating rice with the help of the dam which has been constructed by Nyakirang'ani Construction Ltd , a Mara leading construction firm based in Musoma. "We have already cultivated rice in 81 hectares and we want to end hunger that has always been disturbing us.

Although we need machines to process rice in order to increase its value", the group secretary Ms Esther Marwa said in her brief report to the Prime Minister. The group chairman Mr Pius Mashauri says they still use poor tools such as hoes something which frustrates their efforts to expand rice farming in the area. He asked the PM to become their guardian as well as giving them a tractor to help expand rice farms in the village.

"We humbly request you to assist us with a tractor because we can't do anything significant by using cows and hoes," Mr Mashauri pleaded to the visiting Premier. Mr Pinda concurred with the villagers that the use of poor farming tools was still hampering production of food and cash crops in the country and pledged to give them two power tillers.

Rorya MP Mr Lameck Airo(CCM) also promised to give the villagers one more power tiller at the same time. "Rorya District Council must do everything possible to give you a tractor. I will give you two power tillers ", Mr Pinda told the villagers. He urged Irienyi residents especially youths to peruse the project with some seriousness and eventually set a good example on irrigation farming in the district.

The dam is set to benefit 850 farmers in the village if fully utilized, Mr Emmanuel Lutotora, a senior agriculture government expert based in Rorya said. "The project has a capacity to irrigate 850 hectares in the village and every farmer will be given one hectare to cultivate rice," the official told the 'Daily News' recently.

The District Council has also set up other dams to facilitate irrigation farming in the area. They are Chereche, Ochuna, and Rwang'enyi. Rorya District Council is striving to increase irrigation farming from 180 hectares (2 % ) to 2179(25 % ) by 2015, according to the District Commissioner (DC) Colonel Benedict Kitenga. "We have also established 264 demonstration farms (mashamba darasa) to train farmers on modern farming skills in 20 villages," DC Kitenga said.

The government has also started giving the district subsidized fertilizers to boost food and cash crop production. Majority of people in Rorya District rely on subsistence farming. Most of them live below poverty line. Apart from Rorya, some other districts in the country have doubled rice production.

For example, Kapunga Rice irrigation farming in Mbeya Region has improved, thanks to a 10bn/- investment on infrastructure rehabilitation and improvement by its investor - Export Trading Company Limited. Kapunga farm was formerly run by the state-owned National Agricultural Food Corporation (NAFCO).

The project's spokesperson Ramadhani Tarishi last year told reporters that the invested money had transformed the farm into a highly productive undertaking. "Seasonal rice harvests have tremendously increased after the rehabilitation and we expect more harvests and improvement in future," says Mr Tarishi.

When the investor took over the farm from NAFCO in 2006 following the government spearheaded privatisation drive, the project put under cultivation 200 hectares from which it harvested 284 tonnes of rice. But during the 2007/08 farming season, 423 hectares were cultivated, yielding 1,269 tonnes of rice.

The output increased further to 2,115 tonnes harvested from 604 hectares cultivated in 2008/09. The spokesman says that the project harvested about 8,500 tonnes in the 2009/10 crop season. "In fact, we were forced to spend a lot of money to revamp operations of the farm that was on the verge of collapse when we took it from NAFCO," he says.

The investor had spent 56,000 US dollars for the rehabilitation of the main-water intake facility in the farm. Also 40,000 US dollars for revamping irrigation-water pipes and 480,000 US dollars was allocated for the repairing of channels and 960,000 US dollars on the construction of roads in the project complex.

About 240,000 US dollars was spent in the re-construction of the project's buildings including staff quarters, 2.3m US dollars for purchasing new equipment, 2.3m US dollars for new irrigation technologies and 560,000 US dollars for repairing milling plant.

"There are other costs which are still being compiled, but roughly, we spent over 10bn/- in shaping up Kapunga Rice Irrigation Farm to the present standard," said Tarishi. Rice farming is getting support from different donors. Indonesia has expressed readiness to help Zanzibar in its effort to boost and strengthen the agricultural sector in order to increase food production.

The Indonesian Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Yudhistiranto Sugadi, said recently that Zanzibar farmers could produce more if given adequate support. He was hopeful that the Isles would increase rice production by applying modern methods. "We are committed to helping you produce enough rice.

Our support will include introduction of "Effect Micro- organism (EM), a bio fertilizer which can be used instead of chemical fertilizers," the ambassador says. He notes that agriculture was important in the economic development of every country and that critical attention must be given to the sector.

Two experienced farmers from Indonesia would stay in Zanzibar for some time during which they would visit rice farms in South Unguja and talk to farmers before approving key areas for the Indonesian support. He says that the Indonesians would offer technical support in rice farming and advise on the best approach for growing tropical food crops.

Minister Mansour thanked Indonesia for its noble decision to help Zanzibar boost its rice production. Poor farming in Zanzibar is attributed to lack of skills and inadequate application of inputs due to high prices.

"Rice is our staple food. We only produce 16 per cent of the annual consumption of 80,000 tonnes," Minister Mansour says. He added that Zanzibar had about 8,521 hectares of land suitable for irrigation farming. The target was to produce at least 50 per cent of the required rice by 2015.

Mr Mansour said that agriculture was one of the current areas for priority in the Isles Government of National Unity (GNU). There is a need for Zanzibar farmers to shift from peasant farming to mechanized farming in order to promote food security in the country and create more jobs.

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