INTENSIVE involvement of the private sector in agriculture is one of the important components for transforming farming into commercially viable activities that could earn substantial individual and national incomes.
Tanzania has adopted initiatives like KILIMO KWANZA and Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania's (SAGGOT) designed to help the country increase food production, increase household incomes and promote better access and utilization of food to achieve meaningful nutritional gains through forging a strategic partnership with the private sector.
Such initiatives designed to engage closely the private sector in agriculture are seen also by donors as the country's best decision in the effort to combat poverty through empowering small-scale farmers. Also the programmes are viewed as crucial in assuring food security for the rest of African countries, as well as having a significant impact on reducing rural poverty through increased smallholder earnings and additional alternative income from salaried employment.
For example, the Chairperson of the African Green Revolution Alliance (AGRA), Dr Koffi Annan and Ms Melinda Gates, who is the Co-chairperson of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were highly impressed by Tanzania's 'Kilimo-Kwanza' initiative. They made the remarks during the opening session of the on-going African Green Revolution Forum in Arusha over the weekend.
Since resource mobilisation and heavy investments in agriculture are still a major challenge to be addressed for the realisation of the increased output for both domestic and exports, the public-private partnership offers the best solution.
However, the gradual transformation in the sector leading to self-sufficiency in food production and surplus for export, will only be realised if the government provides conducive environment for investment in this area.
The Same District Executive Director, Mr Joseph Mkude said in an interview last week that the council has already put in place viable irrigation systems, for large scale farming for rice, ginger and sorghum."Out of the 20,000 hectare potential for irrigation, only 11,980 hectares are being used despite the well established irrigation infrastructure," remarked Mr Mkude.
He said the District Council invites domestic and foreign investors in agriculture because it offers plenty investment opportunities with high returns but which could contribute to economic growth in the district. The most prominent irrigation schemes presently in operations include Ndungu and Kihurio, covering more than 700 hectares of rice production.
Mr Mkude said further that some irrigation schemes run by small holder farmers have produced positive results, with the average harvests per hectare rising to between 75 and 80 bags from only 35 bags of rice produced through traditional farming techniques. "Household incomes have increased drastically within a short period of time since the projects became operational, thus contributing significantly in efforts to alleviate poverty," he explained.
The District Agriculture and Livestock Development Officer Mr Majid Kabyemela said alongside with the improvement of irrigation facilities, the district council has rehabilitated rice processing mill that was defunct for more than 30 years ago.
"The mill has made significant contribution to value addition whereby rice is currently graded, thus offering premium prices and return to the farmers," he remarked.
Likewise, the district council invested significantly into the ginger faming and processing that accounts for more than 70 per cent of the total production in the country. "Ginger farming is another most profitable opportunity for investors, which could ensure them maximum returns due to rising demand in both local and international markets," explained Mr Majid.
Ginger was introduced in Same district over ten years ago. Current yearly production exceeds six thousand tonnes. A third of the district's population is involved in ginger farming.Mr Majid mentioned also investment opportunities in sorghum farming, which is currently in pilot project but studies have shown that it could yield premium returns in short period of time.
To begin with the Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL) has offered readymade market for the product.Agriculture sector in Tanzania accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the country's total exports and provides employment to 80 per cent of the population.