IT will be gross exaggeration to assert that the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot) is Tanzania’s leading and most successful agricultural growth initiative.
But it will also be a gross understatement to assert that Sagcot lacks knowledge and skills to change the way farmers, more so peasants, relate to their business, farming. Sagcot, young as it is, has excelled in the latter it has proved that it has knowledge and skills to change the way peasants relate to farming, especially in Njombe and Iringa regions, where its first cluster ---Ihemi Cluster ---is operational since 2015.
This fact is endorsed by the government, its major partner in improving farmers’ livelihoods. The significance of Sagcot once again was explained during the launch of Mbarali Cluster here at Usungilo City Hotel on October 27, 2017, when beneficiaries , in their own words, acknowledged Sagcot’s proven contribution to that difficult battle of changing the way Tanzania’s peasants relate to their main occupation.
Peasants are affectionately referred to as smallholder farmers. Tanzania- a developing nation and belongs to a group known as the least developed countries is dependent on a peasant rain-fed agriculture for improving livelihoods of millions of land tillers, feeding the nation and earning foreign currency for the nation.
And now Tanzania, like other third world countries, has chosen agro-industrialisation as a roadmap to envisioned development. In other words, Tanzania acknowledges that achievement of the envisioned development will largely rely on smallholder farmers’ efforts, those of government and efforts of friends of Tanzania.
Agriculture is the cornerstone the country’s economy. In December 2010, in the heat of launching Sagcot, and in trying to show the decisive importance of agriculture in making Tanzania survive in the future globalised world, retired President Jakaya Kikwete amply said: “Tanzania is, in essence, an agricultural country where agriculture means almost everything.”
As Tanzania still grapples with development problems it launched Sagcot initiative. President Kikwete’s words would help us know why Sagcot initiative was launched. He said: “Sagcot initiative was born out of the deliberations of the World Economic Forum on Africa held in May, 2010 in Dar es Salaam.
The idea behind the initiative was to support and bolster efforts being undertaken by the government, its people, private sector and other stakeholders to bring about green revolution.” The six-year-old Sagcot has lived to the expectations of those who created it.
It has played a pivotal role in changing the way Tanzania’s peasants relate to their job by coordinating their efforts and the efforts of the government by highlighting the importance of private sector and that of ‘non-state actors’ in the process of development.
To confirm this, Sagcot says as of last month some 438 million US dollars from the private sector has been invested in the corridor, proving--- albeit partially---the willingness to participate in the country’s new approach to national development.
And during the launch friends of Tanzania had encouraging words to say about what was going on, especially after the Minister for Agriculture, Dr Charles Tizeba, called on those friends of Tanzania to continue supporting the institutions.
The Minister re-affirmed the government commitment to ensure that it would facilitate the agricultural growth by putting in place best policies, favorable tax regime and social service infrastructure.
“The government will through its weight into working on the challenges facing farmers such as high cost of doing business, poor tillage implements and double taxation to ensure farmers flourish in their farming investments,” he said.
Dr Tizeba also hailed both bilateral and multilateral partners who have supported the initiative and urged them to continue supporting the agricultural initiative especially now that the government wants it to be extended beyond its borders.
Ms Berth Arthy, the Head of the Department for International Development (DFID) the United Kingdom said the DFID funds Sagcot for good reasons: “We do this because we are quite convinced that agriculture has got such important potential for Tanzania in terms of its prosperity and for helping small holders get out of poverty.”
Senior Agricultural Specialist with the World Bank, Ms Sarah Simons, praised Sagcot’s approach to agricultural development, which lays emphasis on diversification, judicious use of resources and on crop projects that have “a relatively high return on investment.”
“I am particularly keen in the value chain, moving away from the traditional approaches which focus on staple food crops to a more diversified crops that have a relatively high return for the investment” she said.
The Head of Cooperation at the Norwegian Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Mr Trygve Bendiksby, said he was convinced Sagcot’s efforts will raise the income of small holder farmers.
The Director of Economic Growth at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Mr Randy Chester, said it was a good initiative that brings on board the government, development partners and private sector to promote private sector-led development in agriculture.
“We are pleased to see the government of Tanzania, private sector and donor community coming together to promote private sector-led agricultural development in the corridor,” he said.
Sagcot’s believes firmly the agriculture potential of the corridor is significant and it believes the region can be a potential breadbasket for Tanzania and other countries.
On this score, Sagcot Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Ms Jennifer Baarn says: “if we want to unleash this potential, it is critical that we do so in a responsible manner. We have to man age natural resources sustainably and have to ensure that smallholder farmers and their communities benefit.”
Dr Tizeba said what Sagcot has done in the corridor should be done in other parts of Tanzania to promote agricultural development. “You have shown the way and you have the expertise. We can’t afford to see other regions languishing while we have a state of the art agricultural initiative that needs to be shared across the board,” he said.
The SAGCOT launched a new Mbarali Cluster, which covers Mbeya and Songwe regions, making a total of six existing clusters in operation in the southern highland agricultural corridor. Others designated clusters include Ihemi, Ludewa, Kilombero, Sumbawanga and Rufiji.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SAGCOT, Mr Geoffrey Kirenga said SAGCOT was born out of a roundtable discussion between the private and public sector, saying SAGCOT was bound to succeed because of the good cooperation.
”Our vision is to see that come 2030 we should among other things be able to uplift more than two million people out of abject poverty. We want to see agricultural value chain improves “ Mr Kirenga said.
The Executive Secretary of the SAGCOT Catalytic Trust Fund, Dr John Kyaruzi said launching of a new Mbarali Cluster was an important milestone in terms for widening the number of small holders to be supported to maximize agricultural opportunity’s value chain.
SAGCOT activities are funded by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, UK aid , the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, the Royal Norwegian Embassy, and Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).