ROADS in Katavi and Rukwa regions currently under construction are expected to open up local farmers to markets across borders of Malawi, Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to the region's head of the Economic and Production Mzava Willy, more roads are either being rehabilitated or new ones constructed. He said Tanroads has already started work on regional and trunk roads spanning over 1,500km and restoration of 109 bridges at the cost over 4.4bn/-.
He also said that the government would also spend over 8.4bn/- on 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). In months, the major roads currently under construction will open up the region to DR Congo. Burundi and Zambia markets. They will also influence big companies in Dar es salaam to drive straight to the region for agricultural produce.
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 more than 2,357 hectares out of 31,755 hectares of land suitable for agriculture.
Kaengesa is one of the Rukwa region's 397 villages which produce the bulk of maize making Rukwa one of the country's bread baskets through which access potential neighbouring country markets such as Zambia. Farmers such as Peter Mzuga from Kaengesa village in Sumbawanga Rural who harvested and delivered 400 bags last season was also optimistic they would benefit from completion of the road constructions.
For example, one of the reports by the National Food Agency shows it purchased a total of 44,944 tonnes of maize as at the end of August 2010, which is equivalent to 32 per cent of the total of 140,000 tonnes which was bought that year. Regional reports show there is optimism on the sort of impact the roads will bring.
"We want our farmers to make huge profits from such markets," said Willy Mnzavas, Head of Economic and Production Unit at the Regional Commissioner's office. Poor infrastructure had remained a challenge to farmers who transport their cereals including maize to NFRA's collectional depots although hope is being restored due to ongoing road construction projects.
But still, there is a sense of optimism that the farmers will benefit through access to near and far markets if the construction of six major roads connecting the region complete in three years time as government leaders and experts promised. Travelling across major roads in the region, which has a road network of 4,983km, currently puts one in a confrontation with the major hindrance that has for many years been a daily worry for the farmers and stopped them from accessing reliable markets.
But the roads currently under construction link up the region's three economic zones including Rukwa valley in Mpanda district where there is rice, maize, sun flower, beans, potatoes. There is also the Ufipa plateau which has maize, sun flower and beans and the Lake Tanganyika Mwambao which has produce such as cassava and sun flower.
According to the Rukwa Tanroads reports, the feasibility study, detailed engineering design and preparation of tender documents for the Mpanda-Koga-Tabora 359km long road is ongoing. Over 2.9bn/-, would be spent on rehabilitating 1,015km of regional roads and restoration of 82 bridges.
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). "If we develop Kasanga port and the road from their towards Sumbawanga, we shall have opened good opportunity for transportation of agricultural produce and the economy in general," he said.
The construction of the Sumbawanga- Matai-Kasanga which is 112km long, at a cost of 133.3bn/- has already started and will complete. According to the regional Agricultural Officer Oclan Chengula, this is expected to significantly assist farmers transport their produce from Sumbawanga, Kaengesa, Matai to bigger and better markets at currently being expanded port of Kasanga overlooking Congo and Burundi.
Feasibility study and detailed engineering Design for the Mpanda-Uvinza-Kanyani-Kasulu road, which is 252km long is ongoing. Mr Chengula said this road, which passes through over 150 villages is expected to open them up to urban markets in Sumbawanga and on the opposite side through Kasulu to Kigoma and Burundi.
"We were having a major problem of bad roads affecting our regional economy. From the major market of Dar es Salaamthe road from Tunduma to Sumbwawanga is poor. So if we take products to Dar es Salaam major market, we could not compete with products from Morogoro, Arusha or Dodoma, yet, that is the major market we depend on," said the region's agricultural Officer.
"The Sumbawanga -Tunduma road has been disturbing us for a long time, but perhaps within two years, it will be done and another hindrance to transportation will remain the feeder roads," he said. He also said that electricity, which comes from neighbouring Zambia into the region, would help if it remains dependable as it is occasionally of low voltage. "So those who want to come into industry for processing agricultural produce here are encouraged," said Changula.