DAVOS, SWITZERLAND: VICE-PRESIDENT Dr Philip Mpango, has emphasized the critical need for African policymakers to demonstrate political will in empowering farmers to engage in productive and profitable businesses.
Dr Mpango highlighted the pivotal role of farmers as the backbone of the continent, responsible for not only feeding the population but also contributing significantly to foreign exchange earnings and government revenue.
He underscored the importance of recognizing the substantial contribution made by farmers and fostering an environment that enables them to thrive in their agricultural pursuits.
“For a long time, we have not had the political will to let the farmers do a productive and profitable business, but now it’s time for African policymakers to recognize their crucial contribution,” remarked Dr Mpango during the Cultivating Opportunities on African Soil event at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
The Vice-President acknowledged the historical lack of emphasis on agriculture as a business, leading to insufficient support for effective marketing strategies.
He stressed the necessity of correcting flawed policies, citing Tanzania’s experience in eliminating nuisance taxes and fees to liberalize the market, thereby ensuring farmers receive fair compensation for their efforts.
Addressing challenges related to credit accessibility for farmers, Dr Mpango shared Tanzania’s innovative approach. The Central Bank has established a special window through which commercial banks can borrow funds at reasonable interest rates, subsequently offering loans to farmers at rates below 9 per cent.
“This initiative aims to create a farmer-friendly financial environment conducive to agricultural development.” He asserted.
Furthermore, Dr Mpango highlighted the importance of private sector involvement in providing storage facilities. He emphasized the significant role the private sector can play in supporting governments, leading to improved marketing and storage capabilities.
Responding to questions about modernizing farming and unlocking opportunities in the African agro-food sector, Dr Mpango acknowledged both potential and challenges.
He emphasized the need to address soil degradation and acidity, urging farmers to use fertilizers judiciously. “Tanzania has implemented strategies such as land surveys, proper land use planning, and private partnerships to tackle this critical challenge”.
“We have tasked some of the fertilizer manufacturing companies, like Norwegian fertilizer maker Yara International, to come up with fertilizer specific for certain areas,” explained Dr Mpango, highlighting the importance of tailored solutions to regional challenges.
Dr Mpango was joined by international figures in the panel discussion, including the Norwegian Minister of Nordic Cooperation, Anne Tvinnereim, CEO of the Centre for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) Éliane Ubalijoro, and President and CEO of Yara International Svein Holsether.
In a bid to strengthen the agricultural sector, the Vice President said the agriculture budget has significantly been increased by threefold. The government is actively working to uplift extension services by providing tools to extension officers and implementing regular monitoring of farmers’ activities.
Furthermore, Dr Mpango said Tanzania emphasised the importance of knowledge-sharing among farmers and highlighted ongoing efforts to build crucial irrigation infrastructure, including water wells tailored for small-scale farmers.
Dr Mpango, representing President Samia Suluhu Hassan at the WEF Annual Meeting from January 16 – January 19, is slated to participate in various sessions covering agriculture, good governance, economic and investment issues, as well as discussions on food security and climate change.