TANZANIA : THE government has expressed firm resolve to act as a driving force for enhancing rice production, as it is one of the most strategic crops in Tanzania, with the East African nation envisaging to become leading paddy producer in the continent.
This commitment was announced on Monday by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Gerald Mweli, when he officially inaugurated a three-day Rice Breeding Innovations (RBI) partners’ Annual Meeting for East and Southern Africa (ESA).
The meeting brings together participation from 11 countries, besides participants from CGIAR centres – International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), AfricaRice and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
Mr Mweli underscored the importance of partnerships with farmers, research institutions, particularly Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and global organisations, while hailing the IRRI for its work in Tanzania.
The government is envisaging significant changes in the use of agricultural technology to enable an increase in rice production from less than 2.5 tonnes per hectare to five tonnes or more by 2030, to double local production
“Our goal as a government is for Tanzania to produce sufficient rice to meet national demand, contribute to enhancing food security across Africa and ultimately become the continent’s leading rice producer,” he said.
He noted that the RBI programme is a public-private partnership that aims to develop and deploy improved rice varieties for smallholder farmers in ESA. Tanzania plays a key role as a rice producer. The programme is implemented by the IRRI.
The first day of the conference united over 100 top rice experts and stakeholders from 11 countries, each laser-focused on improving rice production in the region.
IRRI Director General Dr Ajay Kohil commenting on Tanzania’s agricultural strategy, said: “Through Agenda 20-30, the government has set an ambitious target: a 10 per cent surge in rice production by 2030.”
Dr Kohil said the world has high expectations for Tanzania and ESA nations to increase rice production, which is still a problem across the board.
He said the meeting aims to address key challenges and opportunities in rice breeding and agricultural innovation across ESA countries.
Regional Director, IRRI-Africa, Dr Abdelbagi Ismail, highlighted the pressing need for Tanzania and other ESA nations to stimulate improvements in rice production to combat hunger and increase income to eliminate poverty for millions of smallholder farmers.
“Africa is sitting on 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. The paradox of this untapped potential, juxtaposed with the rampant food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa, can and must be resolved. The key lies in enhancing quality, increasing productivity and ensuring profitability for our farmers.”
“The urgency is palpable. Climate change is not waiting, nor can we. Rice is a lifeline for millions and we have a shared responsibility to innovate and increase its production sustainably,” he noted.
“We’ve made remarkable strides, but the work is far from over. We are building a future where rice is abundant and resilient to the changing climate,” Ismail remarked.
He said IRRI’s efforts to advance rice production have had a meaningful impact across Sub-Saharan Africa, bringing tangible benefits to many participating countries.
For his side, TARI Director General, Dr Geoffrey Mkamilo said: “Tanzania stands as one of the leading rice producers in Africa, but there’s a huge room for improvement. Our average yield of 2.5 tonnes per hectare is an area that needs universal attention at national, regional and continental scales.”
“I believe together we can accomplish much more and make a difference that neither of us could do alone. Let us keep this excellent partnership going and growing,” said Dr Abdelbagi Ismail, Regional Director of IRRI-Africa.