FOOD SYSTEMS FORUM 2023: What experts say

TANZANIA :EXPERTS have suggested that the Africa’s Food Systems Forum 2023, which is expected to be held in Tanzania next month, is poised to shape the continent’s food security and agricultural advancement.

With 64 per cent of households in Africa depending on the agriculture sector for living,   over 60 per cent of Tanzania’s population also rely on the sector, accounting for almost 30 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Commenting on the summit’s relevance, experts revealed that the prestigious event comes at an opportune time whereby Tanzania is embarking on revolutionising its agricultural sector to increase productivity and value of products.

Among such initiatives involve ensuring credit is extended to the agriculture sector by increasing it to 57.7 per cent (2022) compared to a negative 14.0 per cent registered in (2021).

A seasoned economist-cum-banker, Dr Hildebrand Shayo said there is no question regarding agriculture’s impact on alleviating poverty and its contribution to Tanzania’s economic growth, but more needs to be done to leverage the critical potential of the sector.

Dr Shayo observed that Tanzania, like other African countries, needs to use the potential of technology and innovation as part of the answer for the sector to keep on expanding, stressing that the chances and opportunities for Tanzania are quite huge in future as far as agriculture is concerned.

According to him, drones, the Internet of Things, block chain, and artificial intelligence are just a few of the widely available digital technologies that are creating enormous prospects for smallholder agriculture be it for cash crops or food crops to be transformed into successful, sustainable, and inclusive commercial undertakings.

“The continent’s expanding youth population offers tremendous potential for agricultural transformation, but to make use of this promising resource, the industry needs to be a more appealing career path for the continent’s youths,” said Dr Shayo.

He added: “To promote agricultural success and economic growth, it is urgently necessary to increase the capacity of Africa’s youths, not only in terms of contemporary farming skills but also, and perhaps most importantly, in terms of digital skills and business acumen.”

Expounding further, the economist said for the continent to attain food security and agricultural advancement, there is need to do away with reliance on rain-fed agriculture, low levels of mechanisation and high post-harvest losses brought on by poor post-harvest management.

To bring reforms to agriculture sector, governments must  institute some measures,  including addressing low levels of agricultural finance, poor extension services brought on by institutional and structural inefficiencies, low levels of research uptake by stakeholders, limited availability of improved technological packages, particularly planting materials and certified seeds, inadequate markets, poor management along the agriculture value chain and challenging circumstances.

For his part, University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) lecturer in economics, Prof Humphrey Moshi was of the view that there exists a symbiotic relationship between agriculture and industrialisation, noting that once productivity increases there will be more people shifting to the industrial sector.

He urged African countries to set clear priorities on the agricultural sector unlike what was happening in the past.

He noted that the vast land within the continent is enough to service the whole of the continent from issues of food insecurities and price hikes of food commodities exacerbated by factors like the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing Russia and Ukraine conflict.

“Up to 76 per cent of all wheat flour, cooking oil (44 per cent) and fertilisers (25 per cent) in the African continent is being generated from Russia and Ukraine,but …due to the ongoing war supply of these commodities is becoming scarce, thereby disrupting the entire supply chain,” noted Prof Moshi.

Besides, he pointed out that the summit should also derive ways to address the issue of low food security within the continent by transforming the countries into a hub of agro-processing base.

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