23 April 2017

Tanzania: Improve Agriculture to Feed Tanzania Factories


The threat of a grave decline in agriculture is hanging over Tanzania like a sword of Democles.

Already food shortages are biting, inflation is escalating, rain is unreliable and unemployment is high.

Last week, farmers in Magu District, Mwanza Region, complained about being supplied with fake seeds, wondering why the authorities let unscrupulous dealers cheat them for so long. They are unable to determine right suppliers of maize and millet seeds.

However, even if Magu had quality, reliable seed supplies and favourable rain, it is short of extension officers. Farmers use methods of days of yore as climate change is taking its toll.

That is Tanzania's archetypal agriculture. Over the decades we have heard highfalutin slogans being made about the sector, with varied outcomes, some bordering to nought.

Some two decades ago, agriculture accounted for about half of the national income, three quarters of merchandise exports and was the source of food in addition to the provision of employment opportunities to about 75 per cent of the country's workforce.

It had linkages with non-farm sectors through forward linkages to agro processing, consumption and export, provided raw materials to industries and the market for manufactured goods. According to the International Fertiliser Development Centre, counterfeit farm inputs account for 30 per cent of agro-sales in sub-Saharan Africa, where law enforcement agencies, ministries of agriculture and the private sector have not made headways in combating the vice.

Counterfeit farm inputs have been exacerbated by companies that have mastered the art of supplying grain to farmers instead of seeds resulting in poor yields or seeds failure germinate, the claims that seed companies deny for obvious reasons.

Majority of Tanzanians live in rural areas

A World Bank report of 2015 shows that 68.39 per cent of Tanzanians live in rural areas, depending on agriculture.

Researchers are uncomfortable that agriculture now employs 66 per cent of the workforce and accounts for 24.5 per cent of the national wealth. Sixty-eight per cent of the workforce in 2014 was in agriculture, down from over 85 per cent in 2002, according to Repoa. The proportion of the labour force depending on agriculture fell from 75 per cent in 2002 to 68 per cent in 2014. Although the decrease may seem slight, Tanzanians have a cause for alarm as food security is being endangered. Putting it succinctly, to achieve the Development Vision 2025, Tanzanians should be food self-sufficient and secure, well educated, have jobs, well governed, healthy, moneyed, relatively wealthy and economically vibrant.

We are aware that the government implements plans for mass employment-creating industries: those for domestic mass consumption goods and industries for export goods.

It has vowed to strengthen industries and increase industrial sector's gross domestic product contribution from 9.9 per cent in 2013 to 15 per cent in 2020.

To achieve the goals of industrialising Tanzania and having a middle income, we should invest heavily in agriculture, have ample raw materials for feeding factories, create employment and make a dent in poverty.

This is crucial transform an agrarian economy.


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