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Why agriculture remains key to industrialization drive

THE biggest contributor to Tanzania’s economic wellbeing for many years to come is likely to be its oldest economic activity – agriculture.

This is because the country’s economic base depends on the prosperity of its farmers as the government has done much to improve the opportunities open to cash crop farmers. Tanzanian farmers are in the forefront of the drive to restructure the economy along more self-reliant lines.

Their efforts have been greatly reinforced by government policy over the past decades, which at last appears to have succeeded in re-establishing agriculture as a central economic force in society.

In Tanzania, agriculture touches the lives of virtually everyone in society as it is the mainstay of the national economy employing over 32 million people (equivalent to three fourth of the entire population) living in the rural areas and 80 per cent of the population.

The sector contributes about 28.2 percent to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), thus its importance cannot be underestimated, and for Tanzania to capture a higher share of the agriculture market in Africa and the world, increasing productivity is a must.

Prof. Nuhu Hatibu, Regional Head, East Africa for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), says Tanzania has made big progress in adopting science and technology in the transformation of the agriculture sector, but more needs to be done.

Although accurate analysis of agriculture’s role is made difficult by the lack of statistics, production of food crops for enhanced food security is probably much higher for multiple stakeholders along the agricultural value chain.

Addressing a recent Annual Agriculture Research Forum and Seed Stakeholder Forum in Arusha, organized by the Tanzania Seed Trade Association (TASTA) and the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), and supported by USAID and AGRA, promoting public and private partnership in transforming smallholder farmers to commercialization has been AGRA’s area of investment for a long time and has proved big results.

The Arusha gathering brought together over 200 participants from the public, private sector, development partners, and academia. In Tanzania, AGRA works in line with the government to strengthen the country’s Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP II).

“We are happy to support the development of the agriculture sector in Tanzania… in the first 10 years, AGRA prioritised initiatives that complement the work of other actors to significantly increase smallholder farmers’ income and food security by enhancing productivity, strengthening linkages between market and production systems, and supporting the development of an enabling environment.

The results of these investments include the development of 42 new crop varieties, twenty-nine of which have been commercialized, expansion of agro-dealers network with 6,748 outlets enables to expand their business and training of new experts in crop breeding and agronomy.

Previously in Tanzania over 90 per cent of improved varieties were imported,” explained Prof Hatibu. Currently, AGRA’s biggest intervention is based on a consortia model that brings together multiple actors in the commodity value chains targeted in a specific area to provide integrated services to agribusinesses and farmers in that area.

This has led to increased efficiency in each segment of the agriculture value chain, hence more income and food security for farmers. “We are mostly based in the western regions of Tanzania – Kagera, Kigoma, Rukwa, Katavi, Iringa, Njombe, and Ruvuma. We have also had some activities in Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Manyara,” he added.

The results are evident, from increased adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies to better-organized commodity marketing. Starting with smallholder farmers, agribusinesses along the sector value chain, are transforming into sustainable business enterprises.

Working in 12 African countries, AGRA is in its fourth year in Tanzania implementing a five-year strategic plan that ends next year (2021) and is in the process of coming up with AGRA 2030 Strategy. According to an internal M&E report, Tanzania has achieved its targets one year ahead of the end of the 2017-2021 strategy.

The views and concerns of stakeholders would be presented to top AGRA organs to be considered for inclusion in the strategy document. Prof Hatibu is an ardent advocate for the use of science and technology in Africa’s agriculture as the road to poverty alleviation for the smallholder farmers.

From the adoption of improved seeds varieties to the use of farm mechanization, modern storage and processing facilities, he says it is important to mechanize the entire agricultural value chain.

Mr Vianey Rweyendela, the AGRA Country Manager says his organization has in the recent past funded the release of over 42 improved cultivars of food crops such as maize, cassava, beans and soybeans, where 29 of these are varieties that are commercially available to farmers.

AGRA has also supported the establishment of 15 seed companies and capacitated others to increase their production. At the same time, AGRA in Tanzania has capacitated over 6,748 agro-dealers from around the country and supported post-graduate studies for agriculture experts (14 PhDs and 27 MScs), who are leading researchers in agriculture development.

Arusha District Commissioner, Kenani Kihongosi, when he was flagging off the annual seeds forum, noted that the favourable food security situation in Tanzania is a result of the commendable work done by agriculture stakeholders which has also led to increased internal and external agribusiness.

Production and availability of quality seeds have led to food security and production of surplus for internal and external trade, he noted. “I congratulate you for producing quality seed,” he told Seed researchers, adding that they are very vital for the development of the sector, which still remains the backbone of the economy.

He commended them for not only being great seed researchers but also being committed to the development of the nation (patriots),” he said.

He said stakeholders should be relentless in spreading uptake of innovative agricultural technologies for economic development, adding “Continued production of quality seeds and making them more accessible to farmers is vital.”

Kihongosi rooted for agriculture, saying the stakeholders in Arusha should take advantage of strategic infrastructure projects such as SGR from Morogoro to Dodoma.

“We have a railway line from Dar es Salaam – Tanga – Moshi – Arusha... farmers should rest assured that their crops will be marketable to those destinations. We have a goods train that has started operations to Arusha as well,” he noted. The road to the future was bright, as agricultural processing was bound to increase.

“As we construct one of Africa’s biggest hydroelectric power production at Rufiji, we will have more than enough power, which is vital for industrial growth. This will lead to agricultural produce being processed at our own industries. Farmers will get more income from their produce,” he explained.

The meeting’s convener, the Executive Director at the Tanzania Seed Trade Association, Mr Bob Shuma, said it was important to promote research and development, publicity, education and training in the seed subsector.

“We advocate for legislative actions and engage in the harmonization of regulation governing the seed sector throughout Tanzania so as to catalyze faster growth of the seed industry,” he noted. He was emphatic that Agricultural research and the seed sector play an important role in improving the Food and Nutrition Security in Tanzania.

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