Tanzania is a country that is passionate about agricultural production. Even the country’s president considers himself a farmer.
Tanzania has a rich history and is home to one of the first experiments of African socialism in contemporary, post-independent Africa. But as the excitement and thoughts of what it could have been like to have lived in a time when a truly African form of government prevailed takes over, one is brought back down to earth by the sad reality of what the dependency model of the international system achieved in ensuring that the dominant remained higher up on the economic ladder.
However, there are always entertaining stories when one takes the time to search for something special in the agricultural value chain.
Luitgard Lupenza, a Tanzanian smallholder farmer, grows oyster mushrooms and makes sausages out of them. She explains that it is used for nutritious consumption and for people with allergies and other mild flu-like illnesses.
The mushroom business has enabled her to put her kids and grandchildren through school. Every season she manages to harvest about 600kg, selling 200 grams for about 30 000 Tanzanian shillings (R157.17).
She is just one of many success stories, but the country still lags far behind in terms of agricultural development and proper investment to assist with innovation.
Tanzania is a country where 80 percent of the 45 million population is involved in agriculture and are smallholder farmers. Although the country has experienced various setbacks when it comes to agricultural development, these 80 percent feed about 90 percent of the population.
In his address to various agricultural stakeholders at the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network’s Food Security Policy Dialogue in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said the sector was in need of various inputs to help it reach its full potential.
For example, Kikwete said there was limited use of fertiliser. In the country, the use of fertiliser accounts for 8kg a hectare, which was an indication of low agricultural production. The average for Africa was 10kg a hectare, while in other countries the average was about 100kg. Countries such as the Netherlands used 577kg a hectare for fertiliser.
While Kikwete highlighted the challenges of dealing with pests and diseases in Tanzania’s agricultural sector, he also said the country had experienced a lack of skilled farmers to drive agricultural growth and production.
Countries such as Vietnam, which had been ravaged by war with the French and the US, went through reform in 1986 around the same time as Tanzania abandoned socialism. Today, Vietnam is the second-largest exporter of rice at 33 million tons every season.
“I was intrigued to know what was their secret behind their success. They told me that we had to develop a plan and have somebody to underwrite that plan. They informed me that they worked with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to help with the agricultural development plan.
“Vietnam also worked with Japan, which provided assistance… Countries such as Indonesia also got assistance from the FAO and got other countries to assist with their agricultural development,” he said.
Kikwete believes that in order for the agricultural sector to thrive, it has to have inputs at the core of its operational agenda. “There is no agricultural sector without water… and skilled farmers are also inputs in agriculture. If the farmer is not skilled, then there is no application of modern technology,” he said.
The key areas of focus in agricultural development in the country today is ensuring that there is a sufficient level of infrastructure development within the transportation sector where farmers need to transport goods and gain access to lucrative markets. In addition, one of the main objectives is to lift the country out of being a primary consumer of goods, or just being a source of raw material.
“We need added value and participate in the value chain. Why should we produce cotton and send it to China to make denims and cloth,” he asked.
Kikwete said about $30 million (R251m) has been invested for research purposes and seed multiplication. A further $3.4 billion will be invested in various other agricultural initiatives, which will generate over 20 000 direct jobs and lift a further 3 million people out of poverty.
Some of the plans in the pipeline include the development of five agricultural regions, which will see development under the Kilimo Kwanza initiative. This will see the country’s Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania form partnerships with the international private sector to assist in driving and implementing growth and production investments.
While many countries in Africa experience hardships due to infrastructure and transportation impediments, the general consensus is that a more innovative approach towards agricultural development is required for the realisation of the continent’s food security objectives.