THE National Service has launched an ambitious 4bn/- strategic irrigation scheme aiming at ensuring that the army has enough food as well as producing enough raw materials in complimenting the government's envisaged industrial economy by 2025.
Speaking after laying a foundation stone for the project, the Chief of Defence Forces, General Venance Mabeyo said the first ever project in the country expects to cover about 12,000 acres of land by 2025, but to begin with, the National Service will begin with 2,500 acres.
The project which kicked off in September 2020 is executed at Chita's 837 KJ Camp in Kilombero District, Morogoro region, and already its implementation has reached at least 60 per cent, according to the National Service Chairman of strategic committee on agriculture, livestock and fisheries development, Colonel Hassan Mabena.
In his brief report to CDF, Colonel Mabena said after a thorough assessment, the actual value of the on-going irrigation system scheme was estimated at 12.6bn/-, but the army was expecting to spend only 4bn/-, thus successfully saving around 8bn/-.
The project, according to him, was being undertaken patriotically in cooperation with indigenous experts from Tanzania Irrigation Commission (TIC) and the Morogoro-based Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), among others. Cornel Mabena, who doubles as the Acting Head of Administration in the National Service, said that during the 2019/2020 season, the Ifakarabased camp cultivated 1,000 acres of rice, but the end results did not come out well due to some challenges.
He said that the project was a five-year strategic agriculture (2020-2025) plan, but he was quick to point out that it would be sustainable in ensuring that the country through the national service had enough food security to feed the nation.
"Students from SUA and from other agro -colleges will use the project to facilitate their internship field studies, whereby during their stay here, farmers from adjacent communities will be welcomed to learn recommended agronomic practices for cultivating rice," he noted.
In his remarks, General Mabeyo challenged the committee on strategic farming to conduct further researches in other areas of the country to have similar projects, after completing the installation of infrastructure at Chita's Irrigation Scheme.
"We want to ensure that the country has food security and avoid importing food items from outside the country, and I have been informed that by June next year, the exercise to put up proper infrastructure will have been completed and operations will kick off by 100per cent," he added.
He pledged to provide 200m/- from the CDF fund which will be channeled to the National Service to fast-track putting up of appropriate infrastructure at the scheme.
The CDF said the megaproject was in line with a series of efforts by the national service to ensure that there was enough food security, as well as fast-tracking the envisaged industrial economy in the country.
He underscored the need for the National Service to invest largely in diverse agricultural projects in order to contain existing shortages of crop based raw materials within the country, as well as staple food crops.
"Among others, the general vision for the establishment of the National Service was to compliment government's efforts to improve performance delivery of all economic sectors. You have enough land bank, make sure you research, innovate and come -up with more useful agricultural projects," he challenged.
According to General Mabeyo, statistics show that the country is spending billions anually to import edible oil due to low pace in production of sunflower seeds, with records depicting that in 2019 alone, about 413bn/- was spent to import edible oil.
Speaking earlier, National Service Chief (NSC), Major General Charles Mbuge said the project was in line with a chain of other initiatives being undertaken by JKT to improve production and productivity of the three sectors of agriculture, livestock and fisheries.
Statistics in the country show that 65per cent of raw materials in various factories come from agriculture, livestock and fisheries.
In his speech, the CNS paid tribute to the CDF for his endless support and efforts to ensure the project was implemented accordingly, adding that the initiative will be accomplished in expected time frame and quality.
He added that several economic projects were being implemented in different National Service camps in the country, with several others in the pipeline.
"We're working round the clock to ensure sober utilisation of all the resources that we have, including land and human power in order to venture into wider projects for the benefit of the National Service, and the country at large," he said.
Major General Mbuge further revealed that apart from the irrigation scheme, plans were equally afoot for the establishment of a megarice processing factory which apart from helping the army, would also help neighbouring villages in Kilombero District.