THE ongoing construction of tarmac roads in Rukwa Region targets the next farming season, with many of them scheduled for completion soon.
The regional head of Economic and Production department, Mr Mzava Willy has said that surplus in production of food and cash crops is expected to increase by over 11 and 14 per cent, respectively, next year.
He told the 'Daily News' that once most of the roads are complete, it would help farmers access markets easier in the 2012/2013 season. In just months, the major roads currently under construction will open up the region to DR Congo.
Burundi and Zambian markets. He said they would also influence big companies in Dar es Salaam to drive straight to the region for agricultural produce, adding that agricultural produce in rural Rukwa will have value when production and consumption centres are linked via appropriate marketing infrastructure.
Mr Willy said the government has embarked on a mission to construct over six major roads connecting the region with three neighbouring regions and introducing over 16 irrigation projects aiming at covering 2,357 out of 31,755 hectares of land suitable for agriculture.
Currently, Tanroads is rehabilitating regional and trunk roads spanning to over 1500km and restoration of 109 bridges at the cost of over 4.4bn/- in the region. He said that starting 2011, over 2.9bn/- would be spent on rehabilitating 1,015km of regional roads and restoration of 82 bridges.
He also said that the government would also spend over 8.4bn for rehabilitation of 263.7km of regional roads under the Performance Based Management and Maintenance of Roads (PMMR). The roads under the project include Sumbawanga-Chala (59.6km), Ntendo-Muze (37.22km), Chala-Kirando (87.22km) and Katongolo-Kipili(6.06km).
Other regional roads being rehabilitated under PMMR are Chala-Kizi-Sitalike-Mpanda (173.8km). The construction of the Sumbawanga-Matai-Kasanga which is 112km long, at a cost of 133.3bn/- has already started and will be complete in three years.
In an interview, the Rukwa Region Agricultural Officer Oclan Chengula, told the 'Daily News' that this is expected to significantly assist farmers transport their produce from Sumbawanga, Kaengesa, Matai to bigger and better markets using the currently expanded port of Kasanga that overlooks Congo and Burundi.
Kaengesa is one of the region's 397 villages that produce the bulk of maize, making Rukwa one of the country's bread baskets, but red tape is frustrating farmers' efforts to access potential markets in neighbouring countries like Zambia.