THE Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot) has called for enactment of laws to protect Tanzania’s arable land in the same way game and national parks are legally protected.

Sagcot Chief Executive Officer, Mr Geoffrey Kirenga, told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Water here yesterday that Tanzania’s arable land must be treasured and protected in the same way stiff laws are protecting areas with mineral reserves, game, and national parks.

Mr Kirenga reminded committee members that Tanzania’s population has crossed 50 million, which is young and snowballing, asking lawmakers to push for strategic legislations to protect arable land and save it from vulnerability and enhance its productivity.

The CEO told legislators visiting a budding group of small commercial growers of avocado called Tuondoke that protected arable land will support community livelihood, promote food security and nutrition.

Official statistics show that Tanzania, the largest country in East Africa, has 44 million hectares of arable land, but only 24 per cent is put to gainful use. “This country has enacted good and strict laws to protect mineral reserve areas, game and national parks, but the same is not done to arable land.

We call and need to have a strategic approach towards protecting arable land … towns are spreading, fast eating up arable land; we need to think twice for the good of this and coming generations,” Mr Kirenga said.

The Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Dr Mary Mwanjelwa, endorsed the appeal made by Sagcot, explaining that the government will ensure arable land is protected. “Land does not increase, but the population swells; that we know. We also know that agriculture is the sector that empowers industrialisation.”

The deputy minister saidthe government supports urban farming like the one found in Njombe, where use of greenhouses is becoming popular. She said farmers are using very small pieces of land but the harvests are huge and the earnings are correspondingly big.

Njombe MP, Mr Edward Mwalongo, said Njombe farmers are doing their best but their produce cannot reach the market safely due to lack of packaging facilities.