MID last month, on March 16, an occasion of farming significance took place without a lot of fanfare in the premises of the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Morogoro Region.
The Minister for Agriculture, Prof Adolf Mkenda launched Kizimba Business Model (KBM), a model of farming that seeks to take highly productive farming to districts so that arable land can be sliced into manageable blocks and agriculture in those blocks is developed using good cooperatives.
The project represents yet another effort that seeks to transform farming and enhance Tanzania’s capability to sustain national food security, produce quality raw materials for local industries and export surplus crops. It represents yet another effort of valuing farming because the importance of agriculture has repeatedly been emphasised upon throughout Tanzania’s history.
Time has come to take seriously lessons presented to us by this country’s history. In Tanzania, and by extension in Africa, farming is more than a word of seven letters. Farming means national survival. It means employment. It means prosperity. In vast Tanzania, in bearing in mind the complexities of this world, good farming will easily create lots of jobs and trade opportunities.
The importance of agriculture speaks for itself. Preindependence history testifies to this fact. That history provides lessons that should not be ignored. In January 1961, eleven months before Tanganyika became independent, Chief Minister Julius Kambarage Nyerere, saluted peasants and reminded peasants that their occupation needed radical reforms for the good of everyone.
Mwalimu called for use of fertilisers and insecticides. Because acquisition of tractors and planters was a far-fetched idea by then, Mwalimu called for use of oxen and horses to plough land in order to enlarge peasants’ farms and increase efficiency. The pre-independence situation has largely remained the same to the present day.
In 1964, immediately after the January Zanzibar Revolution, President Abeid Amani Karume, declared that all land was a public asset, collectively owned by Zanzibaris and the government of the People’s Republic of Zanzibar was the custodian of the land in the entire archipelago.
Each toiling peasant received free three acres of public land and the government put at the disposal of peasants tractors to plough their land. President Karume said the dignity of Zanzibar and that of Zanzibaris depended on ownership of land by the people and intelligent use of that land and equally intelligent use of the ocean surrounding the archipelago.
In December 2010, five decades after independence of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, retired President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, virtually said the same thing: “Tanzania is, in essence, an agricultural country where agriculture means almost everything. Over 80 per cent of the people live in the rural areas and agriculture is their main source of livelihood. Agriculture 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. It is a major source of raw materials for agro-based industries.
Agriculture, therefore, holds a unique position with respect to the socio-economic wellbeing of Tanzania and her people. It is a critical factor in efforts to reduce and, ultimately, eradicate poverty, in the country. We cannot eradicate poverty, promote balanced socio-economic growth and achieve food security without transforming our agriculture.”
In 2020 President Hussein Mwinyi, virtually echoed President Abeid Karume’s words and vision that Zanzibar’s survival and dignity in the present world shall depend on development of the ‘blue economy’ and taking care of the interests of ordinary Zanzibaris --- the peasants and small entrepreneurs.
Yet the paradox is that while the importance of agriculture has been appreciated all along and always wrapped in attractive rhetoric, much need to be done to take Tanzania from where it is now. When speakers want to impress Tanzanians on the importance of industrial investment in Tanzania, they highlight the number of jobs new industries would create.
Correct. Industries create jobs. However, jobs created by industries would be a drop of water in the ocean if those jobs were to be compared with jobs that would be created by a properly developed agriculture sector. Agriculture remains primary. And the argument and logic should not be hard to see, especially because Tanzania is eager to industrialise.
Firstly, as Dr Akinwumi Adesina argued in May 2017, you have to transform the agriculture sector and then use agriculture and agri-business to bring about industrialisation in Africa.
In Tanzania, too, as the nation will transform farming and agri-businesses jobs --- and many jobs at that --- will naturally and simultaneously emerge.
Secondly by dragging feet in developing agriculture Tanzania is doing two disadvantageous things. One, it is welcoming importation of some food crops and agro-products for its industries. Again as Dr Adesina argued “Africa is wasting vast amounts of money and resources by underrating its agriculture sector.
For example, it spends 35 billion US dollars in foreign currency annually on importing food, a figure that is set to rise to over 100 billion US dollars per year 2030. Two, dragging feet in developing agriculture, Tanzania is undermining its own efforts to get across to the other side and achieve what is talked about in the 2025 Development Vision.
To bring this fact closer to us, Professor Mkenda gave an illustrative example relating to growing of mangoes. He told his SUA audience that Tanzania produces a lot of mangoes and has mango extraction industries. But Tanzanian mangoes do not meet all the industrial requirements to produce quality mango juice. So Tanzania has to import ingredients to allow local industries to produce quality products.
Tanzania ranks fourth in importing those ingredients, following Kenya which ranks third. What does this single example teach or mean to us? It means if Tanzania produced quality mangoes that would be used straightaway by industries there would be no need for the imports.
On the other hand, surplus quality mangoes would be exported to Kenya and save Kenya from such imports too --- imports that might be more costly than mangoes imported from Tanzania. Secondly, it means soulsearching is necessary for producing quality mangoes is within the capabilities of Tanzanians.
Tanzanian institutions, especially research institutions, have to be supported in order to make use of scientific and technological innovations in reforming farming. But somehow land has not been used gainfully and to the maximum to increase farmers’ earnings and produce quality raw materials for local industries.
It is against this background that we have argued in the foregoing paragraphs that time of gazing about trying to decide where the fortunes of this nation lie has long gone. The fortunes lie in agriculture. To use President Kikwete’s words in 2010, Tanzania has 44 million hectares of arable land while only 24 per cent of this land is being utilised.
The situation largely remains the same. Even if only 24 per cent of Tanzania’s arable land was to put to profitable and productive use, it would create millions of direct and indirect jobs by producing quality purchasable crops for consumption, by creating agri-businesses, let alone by creating fertile ground for starting agro-industries in and around farming centres.
It is also against this background that SUA’s Kizimba Business Model (KBM) project is most welcome because it will put a good part of Tanzania’s arable land to gainful use, increase income of members Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO).