Chalamila eyes increased food productivity

KAGERA Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Albert Chalamila has expressed his desire to increase cash and food crops production in a bid to meet local demand and supply to external markets.

Equally, he tasked extension officers   to   utilise the conducive environment including transport facilities provided by the government to reach the farmers in their villages instead of staying in offices.

He made the remarks yesterday while handing over about 342 motor cycles that cost a total of 1bn/- provided by the central government.

“Extension officers play a key role in revamping the economy. The government has provided the motor cycles to enable you to reach the farmers and advise them how they can increase productivity of cash and food crops,” he said.

He explained that Kagera region has conducive weather suitable for production of various crops that were on high demand including avocado, maize, sunflower and sugarcane.

“We should exploit suitable markets in the neighbouring countries where such crops are  in high demand. The region is endowed with fertile soil and untapped valleys suitable for irrigation schemes,” he said. Kagera region shares borders with four East African Community (EAC) nations-Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya across Lake Victoria.

He appealed to youths to exploit available agricultural opportunities instead of blaming the government for unemployment also assuring them that the agricultural sector offers many employment opportunities.

Mr Chalamila directed District Executive Directors (DED) in the eight Councils- Muleba, Biharamulo, Bukoba DC, Ngara, Karagwe, Kyerwa, Missenyi and Bukoba MC  to set aside a budget for  buying fuel  for the agricultural officers who were provided with motorcycles.

However, he warned the Extension officers to avoid misusing the transport facilities for personal interests including boozing at drinking pubs.

Elaborating, he said Kagera region is suitable for banana production with capacity to increase the annual production from 600,000 metric tonnes to over  1 million metric tonnes.

For many decades, Kagera Region has been identified in the minds of most Tanzanians as a banana –and-plantation and land of coffee. It is also identified as one of the regions favoured by early contact with European missionaries.  The others are Kilimanjaro and Mbeya regions.

The agriculture sector has consistently been dominant in the regional economy. However,  several villages in Kagera region   were recently   attacked by the Banana  disease known as  Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a move that has made authorities to caution farmers  to take necessary precautions, including uprooting the affected banana trees.

The outbreak of BXW and other crop diseases has caused panic among the farmers.

In Tanzania production of bananas hit a record of 3,407 metric tonnes in the season 2018/2019. There was minimal growth in comparison to the preceding season, when 3,396 metric tonnes of bananas were produced.

Banana is part of the staple diet in Tanzania and one  of the  ten main food crops  in the country. In Tanzania, most of the bananas (over 70 per cent) are grown in the Kagera, Kilimanjaro and Mbeya regions.

Other regions producing a significant of bananas are Morogoro, Kigoma, Mara, Arusha, Manyara, Ruvuma, Tanga and Coast.

The global export value of the banana trade was estimated to be 8.9 billion US dollars before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a retail value standing between 20 billion US dollars and 25 billion US dollars annually.

And at 8.9 billion US dollars, bananas grown for export are only a fraction of the 44.1 billion US dollars in annual banana and plantain production – in fact, bananas are the  fourth –most valuable  global crop after rice, wheat and milk.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s data shows that nearly nine-tenths of the world’s bananas are eaten in poor countries, where at least 400 million people rely on them for 15.27 per cent of their daily calories.

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