Tanzania CountrySTAT web launch short-changed


When Tanzania officially signed the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) on 8th last month (July, 2010), the colourful function held in Dar es Salaam witnessed top flight attendance by the country's leadership led by President Jakaya Kikwete.


Flashing back to the array of leaders who graced the historic function, one notes that apart from representing what could rightly be described as the WHO IS WHO in the country's leadership.


It was arguably one of the best attended functions since Kikwete's fourth phase administration was voted into power five years ago.


For keen observers of the country's political goings on, it was not difficult to understand why such a function had been accorded the kind of attendance it received.


Basically, there were two main reasons behind the high profile attendance at the function.


One, it was the nature of the function. And secondly, it lies on the importance that Tanzania, for very understandable reasons, presently attaches on agriculture.


Again, this is clearly illustrated by the on-going implementation of its cornerstone policy of Kilimo Kwanza, agriculture first.


Indeed, the promulgation of the Kilimo Kwanza policy would have been meaningless if the country's top leadership had relegated such an important agricultural related function to low profile leadership.


Another pointer on the importance with which the country's top leadership viewed the CAADP, and by extension agriculture, is provided by none other than the Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda who chaired a roundtable meeting of stakeholders on the eve of the signing ceremony during which he responded to numerous questions related to the country's agricultural development.


It would be recalled that it was during the roundtable meeting, that Mr Pinda took the opportunity to explain to the high profile participants, who included the WHO IS WHO in the country's agricultural sector, Tanzania's present and future plans in the sector.


The presence of Mr Pinda at the roundtable meeting apart from raising its profile was very telling given his passion for agricultgure especially ] when it comes to the use of new agricultural equipment such as power tillers.


The prime minister pledged the government's commitment to meet the CAADP's minimum requirement of raising Tanzania's agricultural budget by ten percent of the national budget.


Yet the high profile leadership attendance witnessed during the CAADP preliminary meeting and its subsequent signing ceremony was surprisingly absent five months earlier, on February 24th this year (2010), during the launch of an equally important agricultural related event, CountrySTAT!


The importance of the CountrySTAT to Tanzania's socio-economic development lies in the fact that this is a web based system for food and agriculture statistics at the national and sub-national levels.


The objective behind the establishment of the web based system is to improve the accessibility, relevance and reliability of a country's national statistics on food and agriculture.


It was the importance of the CountrySTAT  to the country's agricultural development that the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Steven Wassira had been scheduled to officially launch the web system.


However, as it later came to pass, the plan was never to be. And instead, the all-important function was eventually somewhat downgraded when the high profile job was handed over to the Director of Policy and Planning in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Coopperatives, Mr Emmanuel Achayo who went on to read his minister's speech.


For one to appreciate why the official launch of the Tanzania CountrySTAT web system should have been accorded the importance it deserved, it is important to bear in mind that this was the first launch out of the 17 Sub-Saharan countries.


 In fact, this fact was disclosed by none other than the FAO Representative in Tanzania, Dr Louise Setshwaelo, when she lauded Tanzania, during her speech on the occasion, for becoming the first in network of 17 African countries to launch the database.


Of course, there are those who may say what has the guest of honour got to do with the importance or otherwise of a given function.


The point is, it has a lot, especially on this particular question relating to the launch of the CountrySTAT for a country that locally and internationally professes agriculture to be one of its very important planks.


Besides, the importance of according such a function a high profile guest of honour fits very well with a Kiswahili (Tanzania national language) saying that states that siku njema huonekana asubuhi (a good day starts in the morning).  


 It is important to bear in mind that the launch of the CountrySTAT web based system (designed for Tanzania by the FAO just as the United Nations organization had done to other 16 Sub-Saharan countries) was also attended by two highly placed officials from FAO headquarters in Rome, Ms Giulia de Robert who is also the Chief of Communication Consultants in the 17 plus African countries each of which hosts a CountrySTAT web system, and Ms Stefania Bacci.


The two senior FAO officials had flown all the way from Italy to come and attend such an important historic occasion only to witness what could in all intents and purposes be described as a low key official launch of a web based system that is set to make a difference between success and failure.


The importance of the foregoing assertion is noted by Mr Wassira himself when he says in his speech read on his behalf by Mr Achayo:


 "Policymakers, especially in the agriculture and food sector, had for many years been unable to come up with proper plans due to the lack of adequate statistics.


With the Web-based information system, it will be easier for policymakers to integrate evidence based policies that would help in economic development of our country".


The minister's own admission that the absence of the web based system in the past had had a negative impact on officials' work in the lead agriculture ministries should have catapulted such ministries into bringing a high profile guest of honour to officiate at such an important function.


Surely, if the minister for agriculture, food security and cooperatives was indisposed or had travelled abroad which is very likely to have been the case, then ministers from other lead agriculture ministries such as Water and Irrigation, (Professor Mark Mwandosya) Livestock and Fisheries (Dr John Magufuli) and Natural Resources and Tourism (Ms Shamsha Mwangunga) should have been asked to step in and save the day.


 One hopes that what transpired during the launch of the web based system would not ‘infect' both the letter and spirit behind the establishment, in the first place, of the CountrySTAT.