THE hot topic of Agenda 1030, a major development issue of our time, at least for now, will this year move to the vast region of Tabora for further deliberations.
Tabora has been honoured to host the discussants during their celebrations to mark the Global Fertiliser Day at national level.
This is a key event marked annually on October 13 to highlight the significance and acknowledge the contribution of the fertiliser industry in feeding the world’s growing population.
It will bring together business leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs, researchers and agricultural experts to discuss and debate what the immediate future holds for Tanzania as far as food security is concerned.
Critical issues of national interest for discussion will include identifying challenges to eliminating hunger and solutions such as the need to enhance national systems and adopt an integrated approach to food security, the future of trade and investment in the fertiliser industry, among other issues.
Agenda 1030 is Tanzania’s agricultural transformation strategy aiming to increase the sector’s growth to 10 per cent per year in the next seven years. This is in line with the lofty and definitely worthwhile Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty and hunger and dramatically improve the standard of living for the majority of the world population by 2030.
It is expected that at the Tabora meet, agricultural experts will share innovative solutions for a sustainable and resilient food and agriculture sector. Discussions are expected to centre on how vulnerable farmers are to shocks and how the delicate balance on the farm can be upended by poor-quality inputs or conditions ranging from soil quality to weather patterns.
Role of fertilisers in food security
In Tanzania, one of the policy measures adopted last year by the government is to launch a 150bn/- subsidy stimulus plan to subsidise fertiliser and other agricultural inputs to help smallholder farmers increase farm yields.
In some regions of the country named as the grain baskets, fertilisers have contributed to meet food needs and to secure a sustainable future for agriculture by providing high quality nutrition for crops and by increasing yield productivity. They have completely changed the agricultural sector.
Evidence of this is aplenty in such regions as Iringa, Katavi, Mbeya, Njombe, Rukwa and Ruvuma, where use of fertilisers has tremendously changed the living conditions of the people for generating wealth.
Dr Stephan Ngailo, Executive Director of the Tanzania Fertiliser Regulatory Authority (TFRA) attests to this fact, saying that without the increase in yields coming from the use of fertilisers, Tanzanians would have needed billions of hectares of arable land for what is produced today.
TFRA is the co-ordinator of the Global Fertiliser Day. Its chief mandate is to ensure timely availability of quality fertiliser and fertiliser supplements to all farmers in the country at affordable prices. It also regulates the manufacturing, importation, domestic distribution, storage and exportation of fertilisers.
Dr Ngailo says that the fertiliser stimulus plan has been a major incentive for Tanzanian farmers to strive for increased farm production.
He exudes confidence that the contribution of agriculture to the national income is set to rise substantially in the coming decades as smallholders respond positively to the use of fertilisers under the prevailing government arrangement of subsidy incentive.
This year’s Global Fertiliser Day theme is “Agenda 1030: Correct Application of Subsidy Fertiliser for Increased Agricultural Productivity.”
This is a theme which has taken into consideration the fact that in Tanzania there is still low level of technologies practised or adopted in agriculture in terms of inputs; agricultural implements or machinery or irrigation facilities to enable both the expansion and intensification of agricultural production. The use of fertiliser in the country is far below other countries in Africa with similar conditions.
However, Dr Ngailo is optimistic that with the current increase in the use of fertiliser from 429,814 metric tonnes in 2016/17 to 1,035,745 metric tonnes in the 2022/23 season, it is a clear indicator that many farmers have understood the importance of fertiliser application for increased productivity.
“This is why TFRA has continued to educate farmers to adhere to the use of fertilisers if they are to extricate themselves from the poverty trap,” Dr Ngailo explains.
The low use of fertiliser in many African countries, say researchers, can be explained by demand-side as well as supply-side factors.
Demand for fertiliser is often weak in Africa because incentives to use fertiliser are undermined by the low level and high variability of crop yields on the one hand and the high level of fertiliser prices relative crop price on the other.
Tanzania, according to Dr Ngailo, boasts of 470 fertilisers and fertiliser supplements registered between 2016/2017 and September 2023 and whose quality has been certified.
TFRA has also succeeded in registering 4,378 businesspeople engaged in the fertiliser trade, up from the figure of 632.
“We thank Her Excellency President Samia Suluhu Hassan for creating an enabling environment which has attracted investors in the fertiliser industry,” Dr Ngailo says.
The number of fertiliser plants has increased from four in 2016 to the current figure of 18. Previously, there were no factories in Tanzania manufacturing fertiliser supplements.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) predicts that food consumption in the world will increase by 70 per cent by 2050, while agricultural land will grow by only 10 per cent, so agriculture will need to be far more intensive and more food will be needed from each production unit.
Fertilisers contribute to meet food needs and to secure a sustainable future for agriculture by providing high quality nutrition for crop and by increasing yield productivity.
They account for 50 per cent of the global food production and have completely changed the agricultural sector.
Agricultural experts say to help build resilience and reduce dependence on food imports, African countries such as Tanzania must increase investment in traditional and indigenous crops to prevent their people from going hungry or resort to drastic measures like skipping meals and reducing portion sizes.