Dar es Salaam — The World Food Programme (WFP) has advised Tanzania to focus beyond food sufficency and start aligning its policies and strategies towards ensuring access to adequate nutritious foods if it is to attain a purposeful food security.
WFP underscored the need to analyze the concept of food security at a broader level than only food sufficiency.
WFP country representative for Tanzania, Michael Dunford, gave the advise during an interview with Mwananchi Thought Leadership Forum (MTLF).
"Tanzania has always been a surplus food producing country which is a positive thing for any country. However the level of under nutrition has been an issue of great concern," he noted," adding: "Just being food secure cannot in itself be sufficient without linking it to availability as well as access to nutritious food".
He said WFP was encouraged to note that the government has an effective multisectoral nutrition action plan that encompasses all relevant ministries including agriculture, water, gender with the necessary elements to achieve the goal.
"The Key consideration was whether decision makers are using data in an efficient manner and what suitable interventions at both local and regional levels are put in place," he said.
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WFP Strategic Review 2016 on the Framework for Food and Nutrition Security in Tanzania, has estimated malnutrition to be an underlaying cause of over one-third of under-five deaths. Almost 4 out of 10 children age - to 59 months are chronically undernourished and about one out of every five children weigh too little.
The document says shortage of nutritionists, estension and community development workers with proper training, skills was among key challenges in the provision of basic nutrition services accross the country.
As a result, vulnerable households are not being reached with key messages about the types
of foods that are most nutritious for children, pregnant and lactating women to eat.
According to Mr Dunford, the National Multisectoral Nutritional Action Plan launched in 2017 also aims to create awareness of nutrition at both decision makers and grassroots level.
"WFP has been in Tanzania for over 40 year, our programs mostly depend on the needs of Tanzanians are at that moment, we launched a strategic plan in 2017 that defines our priority areas," he said.
He said WFP priority areas include support of all the refugees in the country, nutrition programmers, supporting the government protection systems, strengthening government supply chains, focus on innovation and look at how WFP can stimulate and capitalize on that as it supports the government's Agriculture Sector Development Programme (ASDP) II.
He said central to what WFP was doing was also to support to smallholder farmers directly through activities implemented on the ground and the support provided to the government technical assistants and work being done at the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA).
"We do this ourselves and some in partnership with the government including some exiting partnerships we have with the private sector, we are just in the process of launching a small holder engagement strategy which should be ready anytime soon," he said.
Last year WFP bought 170,000 metric tons both from the private sector and NFRA along with the logistics associated with moving the food, WFP invested over $60 million into the Tanzanian economy.
It also running a number of projects that work directly with small holderfarmers including participation in Farm Market Alliance, an initiative at global level looking at how they can link farmers across the value chain, enable them access farm inputs, finance, agricultural practice training and ensuring markets for their produce.
He said WFP is also focusing at resilience of the agriculture sector by looking at alternatives to maize in places like Dodoma and Singida on developing and strengthening Sorghums value chain.
He said they were also working to identify markets like South Sudan and elsewhere, where there is a huge demand for Sorghum and at the moment there isn't capacity to respond.
On the recent dry spells faced by the country, he said it was still premature to state that Tanzania will face a shortage until the government does an assessment to determine the impact and also whether the recent rains have compensated the planting and whether the geminating window has been missed.
"WFP will offer support as required, but I don't thing Tanzania has been badly thit compared to other countries," he said. He said it was encouraging to see that the the ASDP II has defined the role of the private sector in commercial farming.
He believes that there is potential for increasing the role and scale for commercial farming. "The current government has expressed it desire for commercialization and industrialization and therefore it is the role of the private sector to seek support from the government to improve commercial farming," he stressed.
He said the private sector was playing a significant role especially in a country where 80 percent of the population was involved in the agriculture sector.
However, he noted that its contribution to the GDP was still less than 30percent, a considerable mismatch between what the potential was and the reality.
He noted that in such a situation there was still a range of opportunities for the private sector to put in more investment while the government created a conducive environment and identify strong market opportunities to sell products.
He said WFP was among the markets. Last year WFP bought 170,000 metric tons of maize from the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA). The representative also touched on the agriculture budget, the Malabo declaration required countries including Tanzaniato allocate 10 percent of their total budget in supporting agriculture.
He said what was required was a multisectoral approach through different ministries including investments not only from the government but also the private sector through factors like irrigation systems, new crops and markets.