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SAGCOT to rescue small farmers?

It is good to hear that the powerful delegation which was led by the President himself was able to market the organization to the Forum and could see individuals with their diverse interests. They included the JAICA’s President, Ms Sadako Ogatta, the US Under-Secretary for Economic Growth, Mr Robert Hormats and the Crown Prince of Norway.  

President Kikwete was accompanied by his technical staff that included the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, with his Deputy Permanent Secretary Ms Sofia Kaduma.  Others were Prof Benno  Ndulu, the Governor of Bank of Tanzania  and SAGCOT  Chief Executive Officer  Mr Dustan Mruttu.

I emphasize the word diverse interests simply because the whole project lies on a very fertile piece of land across the Southern Corridor that is the home of everything on the surface and beneath the land.      I would be the last person to believe that in the course of  their agricultural activities they will behave like that chicken which picked a piece of diamond and claimed it was worthless  than a grain of millet!

I remember the Russian engineers in the early eighties signed an agreement with the government to develop hydro electric power at the Kiwira River, Makandana, Tukuyu but lost interest on the project and went on for the exploration of gold.  The agreement was cancelled and the place was turned into today’s Kiwira Prison Training College.

I have no doubt that this will not happen as I could see SAGCOT is well placed strategically and has ambitious plans in collaboration with several stakeholders to revolutionize our agricultural sector through Kilimo Kwanza.   With the prompt responses from the world economic powers whereby already the World Bank has agreed to fund SAGCOT Catalytic Fund, 60 million US dollars and the American government Development (Fund) USAID, 12 million dollars, also JAICA is expected to follow suite; then we should expect great things to happen.

This commercial farming which will highly be mechanized is aiming at transforming Tanzania into a regional agricultural powerhouse.   Unlike the commercial farms of the Southern Africa, most of these expected farms will be run in Private Public Partnership (PPP) where you cannot rule out the possibility of  using  the practice of combining the country’s abundant agricultural natural resources with “modern” farming practice that include genetically modified crops(GMC).

Shall we entertain that? There are issues of tax holidays and other critical investment incentives, waiver of duties on agricultural and Industrial equipment, supplies, export guarantees and certainty for use of GMC and bio-fuel.  We have to be strong in negotiations on these issues lest we end up just like the mineral sector!      

It appears the whole of Southern Corridor, and the Lake Tanganyika Investment area that combines Kigoma, Katavi and Rukwa regions, the land is open for investors.   This time after so many years of wishful thinking; the government will manage to put this country into a real agricultural revolution that will set the country ready for industrialization. The government is seriously addressing the perceived bottlenecks in our agricultural sector.

It was alleged  during the official inaugural ceremony of the United Republic of Tanzania Policy Hub that the economic structure in Tanzania discourages rural farming and that the government should formulate ways and means of reaching small farmers.  Dr Namanga Ngongi, the President of the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA),   commenting during this Hub said the policy in Kilimo Kwanza will not be achieved if the government does not formulate the ways to accommodate small farmers, otherwise our Super Markets will continue to be flooded with food items from abroad. 

Dr  Ngongi  also counselled the Government to be keen on policy selection and adoption, so that any decision taken should aim at not only improving agriculture, but also at protecting small farmers even as they encourage corporate farming at the same time. Yes, this is what is happening now.  The SAGCOT programme would be run in private-public partnership model and focus on promoting clusters of profitable agricultural farming and business with major benefits for small scale farmers and local communities. According to Prof. Maghembe, the target is to reach 5,000 smallholder farmers by the end of next year.  

He cited the example of the Kilombero Plantation Limited (KPL) in Morogoro where there is partnership with small scale farmers numbering to 1,600.  This has been done even much better elsewhere in countries like Namibia where Prime Minister Pinda was able to see a farm at Etunda, North of Namibia where the government has entered into Partnership with the peasants and a Commercial farmer.

This has been the Prime Minister’s wish of exposing smallholders to such modern farming skills.  He confirmed this when addressing the Lake Tanganyika Investment Forum at Mpanda that the government would continue to exert efforts to attract more investment into agriculture and ensure that small farmers surrounding the investment areas benefit. With all these positive ways of unlocking our agricultural sector by using investors, we should always guard against the possible innuendos that would lead us back to regrets. 

There is not much difference in approach between the World Trade Organisation and World Economic Forum.  They are all the same in different covers! We should also remember the stalled Cancun 1 in which President Reagan ridiculed Mwalimu Nyerere of offering to him three American commercial farmers to feed Tanzanians which Mwalinu outrightly turned  down. In essence they would have grabbed the land and feed not Tanzanians but export the food to their countries!  This time they may go commercial for jatropha for bio-fuel instead of food crops? It is all farming. 

jnyoka@live.com  +255754342711  Senior Citizen

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Author: Kiangiosekazi wa-Nyoka

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