Tibaijuka hypes joint strategies to transform agriculture

KAGERA: FORMER Minister for Land, Housing and Human Settlement Development, Prof Anna Tibaijuka has expressed her desire to increase cash and food crops production in a bid to meet local demand and supply to international markets.

She appealed for joint strategies to transform the agricultural sector including revival of the traditional ‘Kibanja farming system’ in Kagera Region.

Prof Tibaijuka, an economist and former UN Habitat Executive Director explained that Kagera Region has conducive weather suitable for production of various crops that were on high demand including avocado, maize, sunflower and sugarcane.

“We should exploit suitable markets in the neighboring countries where such crops are in high demand. The region is endowed with fertile soil and untapped valleys suitable for irrigation schemes. Kagera Region is also suitable for banana production with capacity to increase the annual production from   600,000 metric tonnes to over 1 million metric tonnes,” she said.

Kagera Region shares borders with four East African Community (EAC) nations namely Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya across Lake Victoria.

She appealed to youth to exploit available agricultural opportunities instead of blaming the government for unemployment also assuring them that the agricultural sector offers many employment opportunities.

For many decades, Kagera Region has been identified in the minds of most Tanzanians as a banana and land of coffee. It is also identified as one of the regions favoured by early contacts with European missionaries. The others are Kilimanjaro and Mbeya regions.

The agricultural sector has consistently been dominant in the regional economy. However, several villages in Kagera region were recently attacked by the Banana disease known as Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a move that has made authorities to caution farmers to take necessary precaution, including uprooting the affected banana trees.

The outbreak of BXW and other crop diseases has caused panic among farmers. Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW), is a limiting factor for banana production in Kagera.

Farmers classify land use into three main categories namely Kibanja, Kikamba and Rweya. The Kibanja is the archetype of the citizens’    prosperity where farmers grow bananas inter-planted with coffee,

maize, beans and root and tuber crops.

The banana farming system in Kagera is confronted with declining productivity contributed by shortage of external inputs such as mulch from grassland the source of organic materials for home gardens.

In Tanzania production of bananas hit a record of 3,407 metric tonnes in 2018/2019 season. There was minimal growth in comparison to the preceding season, when 3,396 metric tonnes of banana were produced.

Banana is part of the staple diet in Tanzania and one of the ten main food crops in the country. In Tanzania, most of the bananas (over 70 per cent) are grown in Kagera, Kilimanjaro and Mbeya regions. Other regions producing a significant of bananas are Morogoro, Kigoma, Mara, Arusha, Manyara, Ruvuma, Tanga and Coast.

The global export value of the banana trade was estimated to be 8.9 billion US dollars before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a retail value standing between 20 billion US dollars and 25 billion US dollars annually.

And at 8.9 billion US dollars, bananas grown for export are only a fraction of the 44.1 billion US dollars in annual banana and plantain production-in fact, bananas are the fourth-most valuable global crop after rice, wheat and milk.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s data shows that nearly nine-tenths of the world’s bananas are eaten in poor countries, where at least 400 million people rely on them for 15 to 27 per cent of their daily calories.

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