14 November 2012

Tanzania: Kilimo Kwanza Must Live Up to Expectations


ADDRESSING the CCM National Congress in Dodoma on Monday, a member of the ruling party's national executive and central committees, who is also the Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda, said that implementation of the ambitious agriculture modernization drive (Kilimo Kwanza) is progressing well and that full success is on the horizon.

The idea of the scheme is to put more food on tables mainly at home. But surplus produce would, invariably, be shipped abroad. Kilimo Kwanza also seeks to eliminate the spectre of hunger which often afflicts residents in the central and northern parts of the country.

Tanzania's land cover is dominated by woodland, grassland and scrubland, which account for about 80 per cent of the total (land) area. Cultivable area is estimated to be 40 million hectares or 42 per cent of the total land area. Last year only, an estimated 13 per cent of the cultivable area was actually cultivated.

However, Tanzania has no reason to have hungry citizens in one area and bumper harvests in another. After all, even the Strategic Grain Reserves hold enough food to ward off hunger.

Going by statistics, agriculture provides work for 14.7 million Tanzanians. This figure also translates to 79 per cent of the total economically active population. And it would be remiss not to say that 54 per cent of agricultural workers are female and that small-scale subsistence farmers comprise more than 90 per cent of the farming population.

It is imperative then that farmers, who make up nearly 90 per cent of the 40 million-strong nation, need a lot of societal support. It is these mostly poor peasant farmers who eke out a meagre living out of farm work and produce surplus to feed the rest of the population.

These are the Big Four. Ironically, while farmers in the Southern Highlands complain that the surplus food stockpiled in their homes is spoiling for lack of markets, some residents in Manyara, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Mara, Arusha and Tabora struggle to avoid going hungry.

There should be an elaborate mechanism that enables food deficient areas to get supplies from affluent regions. This wealth in tractors should be supported by sound agriculture policies, ready availability of fertilisers and other farm inputs, high quality seeds and the will to work hard on the part of farmers.

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