In Tanzania, agriculture is more than the exercise of tilling land and burying seeds.
Farming means national survival and prosperity.
As the year ends, the Ministry of Agriculture, institutions the likes of Petrobena East Africa Limited, Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot), Tanzania Private Agricultural Sector Support (PASS) and Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSDT) and individuals who are keen on agricultural development deserve commendation and some have won admiration of leaders and of members of the public.
For agriculture is, as the metaphor goes, the backbone of Tanzania’s economy. This can be best understood by borrowing the words of retired President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete when he launched the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot) initiative in December 2010.
President Kikwete said the sector held a unique position with respect to the socioeconomic wellbeing of Tanzania and her people. “Tanzania is, in essence, an agricultural country where agriculture means almost everything.
Over 80 per cent of the people live in rural areas and agriculture is their main source of livelihood. It accounts for 95 per cent of the food we eat, 25 per cent of the GDP and 30 per cent of the foreign exchange earnings.
” When President John Magufuli launched phase two of the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP II) he spoke along the same lines, paying tribute to individuals and institutions that were concerned with the plight of peasants and the promotion of the agricultural sector. “The poor of this country,” the President said, “live in rural areas and are the majority. They depend on agriculture for their living… I thank all who are in working to promote agriculture to reduce poverty afflicting the majority of our people…We have to develop this country and agriculture will help us develop Tanzania.”
For intellectual refreshment and indeed in deed for us to appreciate why President Magufuli paid tribute to individuals and institutions helping peasants to improve crop yield and their living standards we need to go through an illustrative paragraph from the ASDP II text.
The document says: “Given the decline in the agricultural sector’s share of GDP and its contribution to real GDP growth, it is apparent that [Tanzania’s current] robust economic growth is not shared prosperity. On the contrary, those who earn their livelihood from agriculture and who happen to live in rural areas are trapped in poverty.
For example, in 1992 the rural population was 80 per cent of the total population and the poverty rate was 40 per cent. In 2007, after 15 years, the rural population was 74 per cent of the total population and rural poverty rate was estimated at 37.8 per cent.
It is apparent that much has not changed in terms of both the share of rural population and rural poverty rates in Tanzania. The sectors that have driven economic growth, such as construction, finance, mining, services and telecommunications have not created jobs in rural areas and have not had a noticeable impact, direct or indirect, on the rural population.”
But agricultural productivity is constrained by little use of fertiliser at smallholder level, lack of proper crop husbandry and non-delivery or late delivery of fertilisers and other farm inputs.
It is against this background one would understand the reasons for government and cooperative leaders to laud individuals and institutions that have helped to create jobs in rural areas and whose services have had an impact on the rural population.
Those institutions have been keen on, particularly, early delivery of fertilisers, other inputs and extension services. The average national fertiliser requirement is 485,000 a year. When fertilisers do not reach the peasants in time or are improperly applied, both the farmer and the nation suffer.
Take the example of small local company - Petrobena East Africa Company - that has been seen to be close to peasants as they struggle to improve their lot.
It has won some praise and rightly so. When Mr Kikwete visited Nane Nane pavilions in Morogoro the other day, he singled out Petrobena Company for praise, saying it was one of the few local companies concerned with the plight of peasants.
“This company is doing a good job to our people. It is taking the right fertilisers and other inputs to peasants and training them on how to use and benefit from those products,” Mr Kikwete said. Weeks back, Katavi Regional Commissioner Juma Homera praised Petrobena, saying the company had delivered to Katavi peasants the right fertilisers and farm inputs in time.
“Every one of us is happy after the arrival of enough amounts of fertilisers. This is a good present to our farmers. Fertilisers have in the past been a rare commodity. Enough fertilisers have been distributed everywhere and we shall do our very best to encourage farmers make use of this golden opportunity to increase productivity,” the RC said.
The RC asked the company to work closely with cooperative societies in the region. Chairman of Ukonongo Cooperative Society Maganga Peter said farmers were thankful to Petrobena Company for early delivery of fertilisers.
“For more than a decade this cooperative never received early fertiliser deliveries. This is the first time we are receiving enough, early deliveries before the farming season. History has been made,” he said. The cooperative society is in Malele District, Katavi Region.
ChunyaDistrictCommissioner MaryPrisca Mahundi on the occasion of receiving fertiliser consignments said late delivery of fertilisers to Mbeya Region and in particular Chunya District had in the past been an agonising problem.
“Farmers will now have no cause for complaints on lack of fertilisers. Fertilisers have been distributed well before the start of the farming season,” she said. Tabora District Commissioner Komanya Kitwala described Petrobena Company as the district’s development partner.
“Besides fertiliser supplies to farm ers you have supported our efforts in the education sector, especially in Tabora Municipal Council. You are doing a great job in supporting the government’s efforts to make Tanzania a middle-income and industrial economy by 2025.”
Manager of Kahama District Cooperative Union Albert Chale praised particularly Petrobena Company for offering extension services to farmers.
“They are very close to farmers. They regularly bring extension officers who teach our farmers how to use the fertilisers they sell to them. This is very important in improving agricultural productivity.” Petrobena Managing Director Peter Kumalilwa said services and devotion of Petrobena workers to farmers were a great motivation to workers and leaders of the company.
“They are a big incentive to us. We distribute Yara fertilisers. Therefore, we have to teach farmers how to use products to get best results. We are also duty-bound to contribute positively to national efforts towards making Tanzania a middle-income and industrial economy by increasing agricultural production and productivity.”
Sagcot Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Kirenga wished Tanzanian farmers and agricultural stakeholders a prosperous New Year 2020.
“The task entrusted to us and Sagcot partners is to unleash agricultural opportunities in the southern corridor. This is what we have tried to do in all the past years and we will strive to do so next year and in all other coming years. We jointly explore potential opportunities, identify and address investment bottlenecks in agriculture in the corridor. The Sagcot Centre is thankful for the support it has received from partners and agriculture stakeholders during the past year,” he said.
Minister for Agriculture Josephat Asunga has appealed to farmers in areas where it is raining to make most of the natural gift. “We ask farmers in areas getting the rain to benefit from it by growing high yield crops.”