16 November 2012

Tanzania: Contract Farming Remains Relevant to Lake Zone Farmers

Photo: The Daily News
Women vendors selling their agricultural produce at a Tanzanian market (file photo).

Mwanza — A RECENT decision by the Tanzania Cotton Board to reject the idea to abandon contract farming in the cotton growing areas is seen as a positive move to further improve cotton production in the Lake Zone areas.

In a recent meeting, that was attended by representatives' from cotton growing areas, local authorities and regional and District commissioners, the TCB chairperson Dr Festus Limbu said the the idea to abandon the contract farming was unrealistic and counter-productive. "There are only a few group of people who are championing such an agenda, but in reality many farmers, government and other key players, find contract farming useful," he said.

The idea to abandon such kind of farming was in recent weeks presented by some representatives from the Tanzania Cotton Association (TCA) and Tanzania cotton growers Association (TACOGA) was rickety. Dr Limbu stressed that it is not true that the cotton growers are against the contract farming; instead it is only few people who are intending such kind of improbable idea.

"The government and cotton growers themselves have established contract farming very constructive and it cannot be abandoned at the moment," says the TCB chairperson. Detractors claimed that contract farming was experiencing hurdles that they described as insurmountable. This notion, however, was overtly dismissed by Dr Limbu, who clearly stated that the contract farming is simply facing challenges that the government in collaboration with other partners have already started to address.

The TCB Managing Director Marco Mutunga also expressed concern, saying some of the private companies that had entered into a contract with cotton farmers to supply seeds and other agricultural implements had contributed to some of the grievances experienced by the farmer because sometimes such companies did not honour their promises to the farmer with the result that lead to confusion, anxiety, dissatisfaction to the affected population.

Mr Mutunga clarified why contract farming during workshop that contract farming yield increases through input support and extension services and improved cotton quality where also increased transparency at buying posts. He says that through contract farming mostly contracting farming empowering growers to manage their own affairs and enable service delivery simplified as growers get organized and increased level of mechanization.

Most participants, including the RCs and DCs reiterated the need for additional reinforcement of the contract farming, and also come out with practical solutions to addressing prevailing hurdles. Mwanza Regional Commissioner, Engineer Evarist Ndikilo expressed the need for all cotton stakeholders to play a decisive role to support contract farming and also guarantee the cotton farmers are benefiting from contract farming and not otherwise.

Simiyu Regional commissioner Pascal Mabiti says the contract farming has benefited many cotton growers in Simiyu Region. He was therefore surprised to hear that some people thought of abandoning it. Such an idea was unrealistic and would not at all benefit the farmers. Paschal Mabiti, from whose region 60 per cent of the country's cotton is produced, said that cotton stakeholders want a more progressive sector.

"We, however, argued that it was also prudent to send more funds to local research institutions so that farmers can get more improved seed varieties. "We want the sector to grow. And we also want trials of the Red American type of cotton so that even the southern parts of the country can start growing cotton. We also expect that there should be connection between researchers and farmers," he noted.

Mr Mabiti gave an example of new initiatives which were initially opposed, but have now increased production in the sector. He gave the example of how contract farming has boosted cotton production in the region from 99,770 tonnes last year to 116,000 tonnes this year.

However, he added that a 'scientific touch' would increase the fortunes. He said the average production per acre has increased from 250kg per acre to 450 kg per acre, though there are farmers, who have surpassed a 1000kg per acre. The DC appealed the cotton Board to select few of representatives who will prepare the best system of cotton seed and farm implements distribution in the flow of Tanzania cotton Development fund (CDTF) down to the grassroots level.

Members of the cotton consultative workshop passed some resolutions aimed at improving the cotton sub sector. They put more emphasis on the need to further boost cotton production in respective areas. They say the cotton buying should be in the system of buying cotton via cooperative societies only. " It is also important for all of us to learn from a good approach that is being used in Igunga district as it has been useful to both parties, and there are very few complaints there."

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