PRIME Minister Kassim Majaliwa yesterday launched a tailor-made health insurance package, "Fao La Ushirika Afya," for farmers operating within cooperative set-ups, to widen health insurance coverage to citizens.
At the launching ceremony at Ulowa Primary School's grounds at Kangeme Village in Ushetu Council's Ulowa Ward, Mr Majaliwa issued 20 cards on behalf of 259 farmers who have joined the initiative.
The farmers who joined the new scheme at the launching ceremony were from various primary co-operative societies in Kahama District's Ushetu Council.
According to the premier, the scheme, the brainchild of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and Tanzania Cooperative Development Commission (TCDC), aims at providing health insurance cover to farmers in co-operatives.
Each member will be required to pay 75,000/- and 50,000/- for every child per annum through which they will be able to access medical attention at all health facilities in the country with partnership with NHIF, he explained.
The premier pointed out that according to available figures, there are 10,522 co-operative unions in the country with 2,234,000 members, out of which 35 per cent of them had been contracting illness but were unable to afford health care.
"We all know that farmers earn money on seasonal basis, hence with this health security scheme, they will be able to access health care at all times of the year," he remarked.
Earlier, the Director General of NHIF, Mr Bernard Konga, said the new scheme aims at widening health insurance to Tanzanians in the agriculture sector.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Majaliwa has issued a stern warning to all cooperative society leaders against the deep rooted behaviour of maladministration, including embezzlement as well as theft of public properties.
The Prime Minister issued the warning in Shinyanga Region on Monday, when speaking to residents of Kangeme Village, Ulowa Ward in Kahama District, during which he also inaugurated the Community Health Programme and the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
Mr Majaliwa said the government reached the decision to revive cooperative societies for the major objective of freeing farmers from the bondage of poverty.
"We have decided to restore the lost glory of cooperative societies to help farmers. I am urging leaders entrusted to lead them to diligently discharge their responsibilities.
They should never think they are there for personal gain," Prime Minister Majaliwa warned. Alongside the warning, the Prime Minister ordered Shinyanga Regional Police Commander (RPC), Simon Haule to arrest nine leaders of AMCOS, a cooperative society in Ushetu District Council in Kahama District.
The order was prompted by a report he had received, focused on the loss of US dollars 21,000 (about 48million/-) that belonged to the cooperative society.
"Pick up all these people for questioning. First, I want them to refund the farmers' money. If they fail to do so, put them into custody," ordered the visibly agitated Prime Minister.
It all started after the Prime Minister summoned leaders of the cooperative to move forward during the meeting before it transpired that none of them was available.
It transpired that they disappeared immediately villagers started booing them. Later, RPC Haule mentioned those being sought as AMCOS Chairperson ShilindeAbdallah, its treasurer, KulwaShinzi and seven board members.
The Kahama Cooperative Union (KACU) leader, Emmanuel Cherehani was booed by wananchi when he remarked that tobacco price was good.
The Minister for Agriculture, Dr Charles Tizeba, said farmers were lowly paid due to the deliberate poor grading of tobacco, adding that there some farmers were still owed by the cooperative for tobacco delivered in 2014.
The Prime Minister stressed that the government wanted cooperatives to be led by faithful leaders. "In any cooperative society there is money and members' property.
Therefore, we need to have faithful and credible leaders," he stressed, adding: "Farmers here have been complaining over being underpaid for their produce while their leaders pocketed some money from the sales."
He advised farmers to refrain from entering into contracts with companies to avoid being legally bound to sell tobacco to them after harvests.
In another development, Prime Minister Majaliwa has said the government has constructed a total of 108 health centres across the country and is planning to construct 68 others within the new financial year.
He gave the government's commitment yesterday when he laid the foundation stone for the construction of a health centre at Chele Village in Msalala District Council, Kahama District.