AGRICULTURE undoubtedly forms the backbone, not only of the country’s economy but that of the bulk of families in Tanzania and the world over.
It is an open secret that for many countries, the largest part of their populations live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for sustenance. And life in rural areas is not a walk in the park.
Rural dwellers have no option but to suffer double tragedy as despite grappling with the backwardness of their areas that make access to basic services a nightmare, they also have to endure uncertainty and food insecurity as they depend on erratic rainfalls for their farming.
With farming conditions being unfavourable as they use mostly traditional methods of farming and mechanisation remaining just but a dream, they usually face another problem of shortage of inputs such as seeds and fertilisers.
It is against this background that the government of Tanzania, in its bid to promote agriculture, introduced inputs subsidies that were bent to make seeds, fertilisers and other necessities readily and cheaply available to farmers.
With the task at hand being massive, the government appointed agents throughout the country that were to avail subsidised agricultural inputs to farmers and those would claim their money to the government.
But, it is sad that some of these agents have been unfaithful by taking their role as an opportunity to amass wealthy. And this has led them to submit questionable and dubious claims that contains inflated figures. The government, however, uncovered massive fraud on claims of the outstanding 62bn/- it owes these agents.
The Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Eng Mathew Mtigumwe, recently told the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that investigations by his department revealed that some of the claims were not genuine. He said that after verification, it was discovered that out of 42bn/- of which the government owes the agents in ten regions, only 8bn/- was real while 14bn/- was forged.
He said the status of the remaining amount could not be established because some of the agents did not show up for verification. To make matters worse, he highlighted that many farmers were complaining that they received low quality seeds and this adversely affected their yields to such an extent that they ran loses.
This is witchcraft at its best. Having supplied farmers with fake seeds, some agents go on to inflate their claims. Stringent measures should be taken upon agents who are discovered to have done this.
By providing cheap quality inputs, they are destroying the livelihood of rural farmers who depend on agriculture to force ends meet. This social rot should be stopped and at the same time nipped in the bud.
The government has done a lot in promoting agriculture and we cannot afford to have few people who are bent on profiteering reverse such gains. Farmers and everyone in the knowhow should help law enforcement agents to bring these culprits to book. Agents on the other hand should be faithful to help promote agriculture in the country.