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Sustainable management strategies needed to address climate change

SUSTAINABLE management strategies are needed to address climate change, which is a major challenge to agriculture and food security. Due to climate change, the agricultural planting calendar has been disrupted, resulting in confusion among Tanzanian farmers.

With a population of around 55 million the majority of Tanzanians are engaged in the agricultural sector which is crucial for growth and reduction of poverty.

However, the biggest challenge for the small-holder farmers is the population pressure, deforestation, poor access to financial markets and climate change.

The fight against climate change risks has to be area and value-chain specific while each district should establish climate-risk profile and strengthen the farmer-research extension link.

Kagera Region needs to boost the agriculture valuechains and the transformation of agro raw materials into sustainable and highly marketable commodities which are competitive at regional and international markets.

We need a paradigm shift from subsistence agriculture to agri-business, which offers a path to reduce food insecurity and boost the region’s competitiveness in the agricultural sector.

The region was severely hit by the banana disease causing almost 80 per cent damage to the crop, but also experienced a prolonged dry spell after the September 10, 2016 5.9 magnitude earthquake. Some experts say that this could be linked to global warming and climate change.

Policy makers should enforce by-laws following devastation caused by the Banana Wilt Disease (BWD). Almost 80 per cent of the crop was reported to have been destroyed by the disease which was reported in all seven districts- Muleba, Biharamulo, Bukoba, Ngara, Karagwe, Kyerwa and Missenyi.

Farmers should get right education and adhere to advice given by extension officers. Xanthomonas wilt of banana - better known as BXW and to a lesser extent as BBW (for banana bacterial wilt) - is a bacterial disease caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas Campestris. Before 2001, it was found only in Ethiopia, where it affects bananas.

It has since spread to the Great Lakes region of East Africa, where it has caused considerable losses. Experts, including extension officers and planning officers from Karagwe, Bukoba and Kyerwa Districts in Kagera Region, attended a one-day workshop held in Bukoba Municipal Council raised concern that a joint multi-sectoral approach was needed to address climate change.

Ms Clevina Kwigizile, an extension officer from Maruku Ward, in Bukoba Rural district noted that due to climate change, pests and crop diseases were now on the increase.

More education was needed to inform farmers on climate change and its effects. If we fail to give them proper education and guidance the agricultural sector will face adverse consequences, she said.

Godwin Kabagembe, an extension officer from Rukuraijo Ward, in Kyerwa district, said shortage of extension officers and lack of resources and transport hampered the agricultural sector.

Rukuraijo Ward comprises four villages- Nyabikurumbo, Mkombozi, Rukuraijo and Mugologolo. Unfortunately, I was working alone to serve about 20,000 farmers, but I do not have transport, he lamented.

Kyerwa District is comprised of 24 Wards but only eight extension officers had been provided with motorcycles. Government intervention was needed to rescue the situation.

Programme Officer for Agro-Forestry for Livelihood Empowerment (ALIVE), Ms Alunas Maxwell, noted that the objective was to sensitize Councils so that they could set aside enough budgets in their respective areas to address climate change and its effects.

Also, there was a need to raise public awareness and capacity building of farmers. She revealed that the programme was being implemented in several regions, including Bunda, Rorya, Musoma and Butiama districts (Mara Region), Ukerewe (Mwanza Region) and in Kyerwa, Karagwe and Bukoba districts in Kagera Region.

The programme is implemented by Agricultural Non State Actors’ Forum (ANSAF), through ALIVE Programme and is funded by VI-Agro-Forestry.

ALIVE Programme supports sustainable use of natural resources within the Lake Victoria Basin by strengthening the capacity of local partner farmer organisations to deliver services to their members and amplify their voice.

The programme creates opportunities for strong partner farmer organisations through which farmers living in poverty and who are discriminated against or marginalised, can make their voices heard and influence the development of society addressing poverty, climate change and bridging the gap between duty-bearers and rights-holders and contribute to a sustainable environment that enables women and men living in poverty to improve their lives.

Agroforestry increases the capacity of the farmers’ organisations in sustainable agriculture and agroforestry to fight poverty as well as strengthen the members’ voices to increase democracy within their organisations.

The current climate variability, such as the major droughts of 2005/06 and the major floods of 1997/08, already has significant economic consequences for Tanzania.

These periodic extreme events cause major macroeconomic costs, reduce economic growth and affect livelihoods. In 2005/06 drought affected millions of people and had estimated costs of at least 1 per cent of GDP.

Future climate change may lead to a change in the frequency or severity of such extreme weather events, potentially worsening impacts.

Climate change will also lead to increased average temperatures (1-3 Celsius by the 2050s), sea level rise, changes in annual and seasonal rainfall and possibly changes in extreme events.

These changes will affect many key sectors, possibly affecting agricultural production, health, water availability, coastal zones, energy use, infrastructure and biodiversity and ecosystem services (including forestry and tourism).

It will also lead to potentially large economic costs. Aggregate models indicate that climate change could lead to net economic costs that are equivalent to a loss of almost 2 per cent of GDP each year by 2030 in Tanzania.

Any impacts are likely to have disproportionately strong effects on the poor, who have no the wherewithal to mitigate to climate change. All over the continent, farmers are on the front line of the battle to survive climate change.

More than half a billion Africans are smallholder farmers. In some countries, they make up as much as 85 per cent of the population. Even in the most urbanised countries, that figure is above 50 per cent.

According to the World Bank, lack of access to high-yielding seeds, effective fertilizers and irrigation technologies threaten the region’s ability commercial agriculture and sustainable agribusiness development.

The bank says the agricultural sector in East Africa is challenged by inadequate research and extension services, post-harvest losses, climatic and weather unpredictability, little value addition and poor physical infrastructure and utilities.

As well as having to cope with drought, floods and an increase in pests and diseases, countries such as Ethiopia and Tanzania say the growing period is getting shorter too.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), estimates that unless concerted action is taken, 75 per cent of Africa’s population will be at risk of hunger by 2080 because of climate change.

Receding forests, changing rainfall patterns and rising sea levels can exacerbate existing economic, political and humanitarian stresses and affect human development. The continued global warming trend will have adverse effects on the environment.

While sea levels are expected to rise 5 metres, or more than 1.5 feet, by 2050, they will continue to rise another 2 to 3 metres by 2100.

The warming will also bring more than 20 days annually of lethal heat conditions, beyond the threshold of human survivability, scientists report.

Deadly heat conditions will persist for more than 100 days a year in West Africa, tropical South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, which will displace more than a billion people from those areas.

This will make agriculture nominal in those areas, affecting 2 billion people worldwide.

MILLIONS of Tanzanian smallholder farmers complain when ...

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Author: MEDDY MULISA in Bukoba

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