Mkuranga — VILLAGERS in many parts of Mkuranga District, Coast Region, are increasingly selling their huge pieces of land to "local investors," who fail to develop it for years.
A survey by the 'Daily News' in one of the villages in the district at the weekend discovered that seven families were tempted to sell their land to such investors at throwaway prices of not more than 500,000/- per acre.
The Mkuranga District Agricultural and Livestock Development Officer, Dr Francis Mallya, told this paper that a new trend has emerged where some people from Dar es Salaam are buying huge pieces of land from "hungry" villagers in need of instant cash.
"It is true that some people are increasingly coming to the district where they buy land cheaply, particularly those planted with Cashewnuts trees, which happens to be the dependable cash crop here," he said. The district, according to him, has about 3 million cashew nut trees but over 70 per cent of them are not fully developed while nearly 50 per cent of them have been sold to the so called local investors.
He said Mkuranga has nearly 80 per cent of arable land, but only 20 per cent is cultivatable due to the fact that most of the land is covered by huge cashew nut trees. Mkuranga District has the capacity of producing 6,000 tonnes of cashew nuts worth 6bn/- a year, but according to Mr Mallya, there is great potential of producing 30,000 tonnes that can generate 30bn/-, being income to farmers and revenue to the government.
On food crops, he said, plans are underway with the support of development partners to introduce modern cassava farming methods. With the assistance of VECO East Africa, an international non governmental organization (NGO) providing technical support to farmers in six wards in the district, modern farming approaches, of the crop, have been developed.
According to VECO Country Director Mr Kain Mvanda, advocacy has been spearheaded for farmers to produce more cassava with added value in order to earn more income and retain adequate food reserves. "Plans comprise enabling farmers produce valuably and sell profitably unlike today where you can find 3 tonnes of cassava being sold at mere 80,000/- this has to come to an end," he said in an interview.
Residents of Kizapala and Lupondo villages, however, called upon the government to demarcate their land and issue title deeds they can use to access loans for commercial farming. Secretary General of the Kizapala Pre-Cooperative Society, Mr Mpanga Thabit said his society has received an order of 10,000 tonnes of cassava flour from potential flour mills in Dar es Salaam but was pessimistic when it comes to meeting the target.
"With subsistence farming and the use of hand hoes there is no progress. We ask the government to supply us with modern farming implements like tractors to boost production," he said.