22 July 2013

Tanzania: Farmers Extolled On Virtues of Activity Diversification

FARMERS have been advised to consider engaging in other activities instead of depending solely on agriculture. The head of Environment Management Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Ms Shakwaande Natai, said this over the weekend in Morogoro at a workshop on securing smallholder farm production against environment and climate-induced risks.

Ms Natai said it is not easy to change the mindset of farmers overnight as they are used to traditional farming which they have inherited from past generations.

"Agriculture is highly affected by extreme weather variations and climate is increasingly becoming less predictable. It is therefore vital for farmers to consider other activities to earn a living," she said.

She said there are other traditional technologies which contribute to affect farmers, such as bottom valley cultivation famously known as 'vinyungu'. The mode is not sustainable as it results in aridity.

According to Natai, the ministry is responsible for providing proper education to farmers for them to use alternative methods so they can address environmental degradation, adding that irrigation farming is highly encouraged.

She remarked that farmers should cooperate with environmental specialists who conduct researches in their areas as it is for their own benefit in a bid to overcome climate change challenges.

"The project which was conducted in breadbasket areas with the aim to improve food security and income for smallholder farmers will be a great help to the ministry as we are in the process of developing a Climate Change Strategy Interventions and Action Plan for agriculture in the country," she elaborated.

She said this was preliminary information that would be considered during the process of improving the agriculture policy. The project, which was funded by Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA), was conducted by the Open University of Tanzania (OUT) in collaboration with Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania Forestry Research Institute (TAFORI) and the Institute of Resource assessment of University of Dar es Salaam.

The project coordinator, Dr Josephat Saria from OUT, said they were now preparing an Environment Policy Action Nod which they believe would contribute a lot to the climate change strategy.

"We aim to improve food security and income for smallholder farmers in Tanzania's breadbasket areas by increasing their adaptation to climate change through changes in policy and practice," he said.

He added, "Preserving and enhancing food security for Tanzanians requires agriculture production system to change in the direction of higher productivity and lower output variability, even with climate change and increased variability.

A senior policy fellow and Tanzania hub coordinator for AGRA, Mr Godfrey Bwana, said their focus was on how policies help small-scale farmers. "If policies are well utilised there is a possibility of bringing change in the agricultural sector" he said, adding that they believed if policies were known to farmers they would help them as they would have a guide to their activities.

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