A DARK cloud has befallen Tanzania. And she is crying helplessly because her gallant son has left for another eternity, and this time for good.
What pains more is the fact that President John Pombe Magufuli, who died last week, will certainly not return anymore, and this is what makes the story too sour to tell. Challenge that comes with writing anything about the fallen heroes of his stature is that you are in a difficult position to decide what should and shouldn’t enter in small essay like this.
On the other side there is a beauty with doing the same as you are tasked with evaluating a boxer who has already finished fighting his bout on the ring, as the old saying goes, “Him that girds on his harness should not boast himself as he that puts it off”.
The late Magufuli was a heavy weight leader and grip in the agricultural sector was highly recognised. Performance by his administration during his tenure (from year 2015 to 2021); from production, contribution to economic growth to export can generally be rated as stellar and no one can question anything about that.
By the time he took the leadership reins in 2015 our food crops production was at 15.5 million tons. The production level catapulted to 16.4 million tons in 2019 thanks to his result oriented management. And it seems if it had not been for severe drought that ravaged our country in 2017, momentum could have been even higher than that.
It is hard to tell how he got things done, but the fact that agriculture’s contribution to GDP reached 30.1 per cent in 2017, becoming one of the highest mark attained by the most important sector in the country. This tells a lot about efficacy of the programmes set and the precision of the policies put in place.
Agricultural growth experienced a rather commendable transformation in a very short stint. In the year 2015, agriculture sector grew at 2.3 per cent. But the same sector’s growth rose to 5 per cent in the year 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) records explicitly show that. There are institutions that were created before he came into power.
Tanzania Mercantile Exchange (TMX), Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB), to name but a few, were established several years before. Much as they were relatively older, they had little impact to the targeted people or no operation at all.
But alas, they were oxygenated and behold the lifeless entities started seeing a rising sun and the people on the lowest economic pyramid – farmers began feeling remembered again. Some issues are hard to quantify, as one can feel and take some important steps to change his life.
His insistence to farmers in 2017 that they should make use of the prevailing drought that affected an entire East African region – in opportunistic way – by selling crops at higher price made them positive with the situation, a psychological approach enough to energize a heartbroken person into taking some new shots, again.
Horticulture has emerged to be one of the vibrant sub-sectors in Tanzania over the past two decades. But one that has missing attention to many is the fact that these fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables have been reaching lucrative markets in Europe through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) route.
Reason behind this was the absence of direct route from the country. In what could be termed as revolutionary, in 2020 for the first time, our horticulture produce arrived in Europe directly from Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA). Similar incidence was observed in Fishery sub-sector whereby the fresh fish didn’t have to go through the Nairobi route and reached overseas directly from Mwanza Airport.
This not only reduced unnecessary operational costs to exporting companies, it also increased our country’s visibility on the world stage unlike any time before.
Being pro-poor and knowing so well that the people he is looking forward to serve are small-scale farmers – the poor peasants – he just increased the sector’s budget to 1.06 trillion Shillings in his first year in office from 1 trillion Shillings in the previous year.
To capture all the victories registered in the sector under his watch will take books and books to finish. But the good thing is that many of his achievements in the sector were celebrated on this page even in his heydays. By so doing we proved the old adage that goes by, “a tree is counted worthy when is down” was not true in every context.
While we pray for comfort and strength to the wailing and hopeless Tanzanians, we extend our utmost prayers to the newly anointed President Mama Samia Suluhu Hassan, hoping that she will be able to take her predecessor’s button dutifully and raise the banner of Tanzanian agricultural excellence even higher.