Tanzania hurries to bring about green revolution


There are all signs that Tanzania is this time around determined to succeed not only in bringing about self-sufficiency in food, but also in transforming the country into a breadbasket nation for sub-Saharan Africa.


It is apparent that the government of the day has finally realized that it is only through agriculture, which supports about 70 percent of the population that it would be able to conquer one of its most pressing enemies, poverty.


But the government is also fully aware that if it is to succeed, it must do something about the use of archaic farm implements by a sizable section of its peasantry population.


Such archaic equipment includes the back-breaking hand-hoe and unscientific methods.


And unnlike in the past, this time around the country's lead agricultural ministries led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, is buoyed by the launching, in on February 24th  this year (2010), of what has come to be known as the CountrySTAT Tanzania, a web based system.


Through the web-based system, policy and decision makers in the agricultural led ministries can easily access and thereby make full use of statistical data in the system.


Apart from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, other agriculture lead ministries include the Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the Prime Minister's Office, Regional Administration and Local Government and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.


Again, unlike in the past when top flight decision makers in such lead agricultural ministries used to grope in the dark, if you like, in their quest to turn around the country's agricultural fortune, this time they would, through the CountrySTAT web-based system be able to work their production goals more efficiently and scientifically.


Although it is perhaps too early to say, with certainty, whether or not the government will win in its green revolution however, there are several factors which clearly point towards such determination.


For instance, one of such factors is the very promulgation, mid last year (2009), of the country's agricultural blue print which has come to be known in Kiswahili as Kilimo Kwanza, agricultural first.


Unfortunately, Tanzanians have in the past witnessed two earlier such agricultural blue prints come a cropper after being promulgated with pomp and pageantry!


The first such agricultural blue print, which came to be known in Kiswahili as Siasa ni Kilimo(agriculture is politics), was promulgated in 1971 at the height of the implementation of the policy of Socialism and Self-Reliance or Ujamaa in Kiswahili.


The promulgation of the agricultural policy, aimed at bringing about self-sufficiency in food, hence reducing, in the process, poverty was preceded by the party's central committee meeting in Iringa town, in southern highland region.


But over a decade, after the promulgation of Siasa ni Kilimo, Tanzania was still beset with food shortage, with the difference between the haves and have not continuing to grow.


And as if that was not enough, Tanzania later found itself locked in a war with neighbouring Uganda.


This had followed the invasion of its north-western part of the country known as the Kagera Salient by General Idd Amin's troops in October 1978 just as there appeared, on the horizon, the proverbial light at the end of the country's economic tunnel!


Although Tanzania went on to win the eight months bush war in May 1979, driving out Idd Amin from Uganda, it was however, immediately beset by a telling drought that led to untold food shortage.


The bitter experience gained from the food shortage forced the government to come up with yet another agricultural policy, again aimed at bringing about self-sufficiency in food and poverty reduction, which came to be known in Kiswahili as Kilimo cha Kufa na Kupona, agriculture as a matter of life and death.


But like the first agricultural policy, Siasa ni Kilimo, the second policy failed to bring about the desired results-namely, the country's self-sufficiency in food and poverty reduction.


It was therefore not surprising that when President Kikwete announced his government's commitment to another agricultural development strategy through Kilimo Kwanza mid last year, the policy was dismissed both by the growing opposition and seasoned analysts as yet another ploy to hoodwink the people for political ends.


Knowing the existence of the foregoing mindset, Kikwete's administration now appears to be well aware of two things:


Firstly, that it must, under any circumstances ensure that it wins, in its present effort to bring about the green revolution.


Secondly, and more importantly, that the time for fulfilling such a noble task is unfortunately not on the government's side!


However, what favours Kikwete's administration this time around unlike his predecessor and the founding father of the Tanzanian nation, Dr Nyerere, is that Kilimo Kwanza is not a wholly government owned thing.


The government's role in the implementation of this policy revolves more around facilitation than anything else.


Main players are to be found in the private sector with the Tanzania Business Council (TANBC), a purely privately owned and run body of businessmen and women, serving as the coordinator in the implementation of the policy.


In the words of the spokesman of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Richard Kasuga:


"What makes Kilimo Kwanza different from the two earlier agricultural policy different from the first two earlier policies, and therefore, destined to succeed is that the latest policy is more than agriculture.


What is more, says Mr Kasuga, "this is privately driven, hence saved quite considerably from cumbersome government bureaucray".


The agricultural officer-cum-communications officer explains that unlike in the past when the government was expected to implement everything and as expected ended up getting nowhere, every sector in the country is required to play a role in the implementation of this policy.


 In fact, nothing reflects the urgency with which Kikwete's administration currently looks at attaining success in agriculture than what transpired in Dodoma town, when Tanzania marked at national level, last month, the nation's Farmers' Day known in Kiswahili as Nane Nane (eight-eight) which falls, every year, on 8th August, 2010.


During his address to the nation, President Kikwete called on those involved in manufacturing farming equipment in the country to go for what he aptly described as appropriate, but cheap farm implements.


He said if the country was to bring about agricultural revolution, then it had no alternative but to discard the back-breaking, traditional hand-hoe by going for more superior, but cheap farming implements.


The significance of  President Kikwete's speech which was broadcast live both by television and radio lay in the fact that it came at a time when Tanzania was also marking the first anniversary of Kilimo Kwanza.


It was during the same speech that the president announced the government's decision to waive tax for imported tractors.


What this means is that whoever imports a tractor will from now onwards only be required to pay storage charges.


But even then, such an importer would do so if he or she has failed to beat the two weeks grace period set by the Tanzania Port Authority, TPA, on its ports.


Otherwise an imported tractor is charged nothing.


The government's decision is very significant if one takes into account the fact that the minimum a used sports utility vehicle (SUV) is charged 3000 US dollars (4.56m Tanzanian shillings: present dollar rate to shilling 1:1520/-) in taxes.


The president also called on district councils in the country to make full use of part of the budget allocated to them in buying tractors for use, through hire by farmers, in their respective areas.


Kikwete's administration has also increased by 7.8 percent the national agricultural budget from 200m US dollars (203.3bn Tanzanian shillings) when he first came to power in 2006 to 700m US dollars (909.8bn Tanzanian shillings) in the current 2010/11 financial year.


However, this year's national budgetary allocation falls far short of what members of the African Union, AU, are required by the continental organization (that stands at 10 percent of the national budget) in the quest to fight against hunger and reduce, in the process, poverty in respective African states.


Both President Kikwete and his technocrat Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda, have publicly admitted that the money presently allocated to agriculture is still low.


But they have both vowed to raise it in the next financial year, for a start, by the required ten percent.


However, one area the government will have to work extremely hard on, if it is to succeed in turning around its agricultural potential, is in production of seeds.


Presently, Tanzania heavily relies on seeds imports and last year it imported 75 percent of its seeds requirement from United States of America.


Unfortunately the end result of such massive seed import was that the country got very poor yields due to different climatic changes between Tanzania and the United States of America.


President Kikwete has, as a result, directed the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives to work on seeds development and production in their own research institutes.


The implication of such a directive is that the government will be required, beginning next financial year, to pump in more money to the ministry so that its agricultural research institutes could produce appropriate seeds variety for the country.


As agricultural lead ministries get down to business in their endeavour to implement President Kikwete's directives, it is important that nothing is lost on the foregoing ministries' engine drivers-Permanent Secretaries, on the importance for all players in the ministries to be reminded of the existence, hence the dire need to make use of the CountrySTAT Tanzania web-based system in their day to day operation.