18 July 2012

Tanzania: Lack of Rural Banks Dogs Tobacco Growers

FARMERS in Lupa area, Chunya District in Mbeya Region fail to save sustainably due to lack of banks and are forced to keep money at home, it was recently said here.

Lupa is a remote part of Mbeya Region that is surrounded by thick evergreen forests blanketing a vast area, where people mostly depend on cultivation of tobacco as their main cash crop.

"We need to promote a saving culture that goes hand in hand with promotion of rural banking ", said Richard Andrew Sinamtwa, the Tanzania Tobacco Leaf Company's (TTLC) Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs, when donating building materials to residents of the area for construction of a dormitory for Kipalala secondary.

Mr Sinamtwa was speaking at a gathering where, TTLC presented 300 bags of cement and 300 corrugated iron sheets, worth 15m/- for the dormitory.

He said farmers were forced to travel from Lupa to Chunya, some 100-km to get banking services, adding that customers of CRDB Bank have to go to Mbeya (175-km) for the services. It takes two to three hours to travel between Lupa and Chunya in a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Mr Sinamtwa further said that lack of electricity supply in Lupa undermine plans for opening up a bank branch in the area.

The Chunya District Administrative Secretary, Mr Sosthenes Magoha, however, said plans were under way to launch a community bank for Chunya residents, and a steering committee to oversee the project had been formed.

"We have discovered that you have a problem of lack of banks to deposit your money, and that is why most of the farmers lives don't changed compared to farmers in coffee producing areas despite getting a lot of money," he said.

Mr Magoha, who represented the District Commissioner, said some 850m/- will be raised as the mandatory capital requirement, although in reality at least 2bn/- will be needed during the transition period as recommended by experts.

He commended TLTC for the donation describing it as timely. He said lack of dormitories adversely affects the performance of students. Mr Magoha said in the 2011 national form four examination results, over 500 representing 53 per cent of the candidates scored division zero.

"A lot of students live very far from schools, some coming from as far as 50 km, as a result they have to rent rooms near the schools. They are not in a conducive environment and don't study," he said.

He said officials and stakeholders have passed a unanimous decision requiring all the students in the district to live in dormitories. According to the Deputy District Education Officer, Mr Jeras Shitindi, Chunya has 22 secondary schools, two being privately owned and the rest are government schools. Yet, he noted that there were "not more that 10 dormitories in all the government schools".

"There is a need to build more dormitories," noted Shitindi, who also pointed out the dire housing situation in the schools, saying the district had a shortage of 252 teachers' houses as there were only 42 houses.

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