THE horticulture sector in the country has received a shot in the arm of 6.4bn/- (US 4 million dollar) grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that aims at developing small farmers in the country.
Tanzania Horticulture Association (TAHA) Chairman, Mr Colman Ngalo said the grant is timely since it will benefit both the association and smallholder farmers in boosting horticultural production in the country. In recent years, the horticulture industry has seen between 8 and 10 per cent increase in growth, making it the fastest growing sub sector of the national economy.
Mr Ngalo said the plan is to focus on developing the Southern corridor in the country, targeting smallholder farmers who are actively involved in horticultural farming, which the government has identified the area as potential for local horticulture businesses.
He said USAID, which normally provides technical support, has for the first time working directly with such an institution to promote agriculture, adding that implementation of the grant will be done in partnership with the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT). "Through this opportunity, the horticulture sector will expand and there will be an increase in job opportunities.
In the next four years the number of people employed in this sector will exceed 300,000," he said. Since 2004, TAHA has provided technical support, market analysis and political advocacy services to a wide range of businesses in the horticulture sector in the country.
USAID Mission Director, Mr Robert Cunnane said the four year grant is funded by the US government Feed the Future Initiative, whose goals include creating agricultural value chains that benefit smallholder farmers and Tanzanian businesses. He said TAHA is a shining start of a successful Tanzanian led organization, noting that the USAID is proud to support their development, capacity building and growth.
"We are excited to support the work that TAHA does for Tanzanian horticulture and look forward to their expansion in the SAGCOT region," he added. He said over the past few years, the horticulture industry in the country has seen an astounding growth, making it the fastest growing sub-sector of the nation's economy.
He noted that in the past regulations, logistics and lack of training and market information prevented businesses in the sector from increasing their exports. "By awarding this grant, USAID recognizes the positive contributions that TAHA has made to horticulture, Tanzanian businesses and as a result, the quality of life for many smallholder farmers," he explained.
SAGCOT Centre Ltd Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Geoffrey Kirenga noted that the horticulture sector is set to turn around and increase income not only for smallholder farmers but for the country in general. Comparing the sector to Kenya's, Mr Kirenga said Kenya receives more than 3 billion US dollars annually from horticulture exports, compared to Tanzania which earns less than 1 billion US dollars in all agriculture products exported annually.
"We are, however, on the right track, because Tanzania's potential in the horticulture sector is ten times more than that of Kenya, we just need the right tools, which includes information on markets and support for the sector to change people's lives and the national economy in general," he explained.
The USAID's Feed the Future Initiative, aims to reduce poverty in the country by targeting key areas of the agriculture sector benefiting smallholder farmers and their families through horticulture development programmes.