THE nation is still reeling from a fresh memory of sudden death of their beloved president whose sad demise, not only shocked almost everyone in the continent, it left with it a huge lacuna of answers to a complicated question, how will the agrarian sector be without its guardian angel, the late John Pombe Joseph Magufuli?
Smallholder farmers are not so sure if their traditionally inherited farms will be safe from the most powerful people – politically and economically – who are adept at using their influence at grabbing those little plots of farm land for uses that will only be materialised by their third generation descendants.
Still have plenty of questions as to who will roar on their behalf on the road side when a common mkulima blows the whistle to the powerful man in the country that a certain government official is abusing his office at their expense?
Business community is still having a fresh memory of bold and swift institutional changes in the agricultural sector, especially when he ordered in 2019 that there should be a transfer of Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission in Arusha to the port of Dar es Salaam.
Before that, agricultural products that were supposed to be shipped to overseas through the port were supposed to be transported to Arusha first for atomic tests to be allowed for shipment. The infrastructural zeal that came with the late President himself was intoxicating.
The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) that is envisioned to reach neighbouring countries that are net importers of food like Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, was meant to give our most important sector an assured market at our doorsteps. A completed SGR would make our produce cheaper and so competitive in the international markets.
One incident that is less spoken of in the corridors of business meetings is the fact that a good amount of common beans produced in Kagera Region find its way to Europe through Uganda then Mombasa port in Kenya rather than through Dar es Salaam port. Proximity is the major reason.
It takes less time to reach Kampala – approximately four hours – through the roadway than it takes to reach Dar Es Salaam – which takes two full days. SGR stands to shorten the Dar distance, reduce costs of doing business, improve our position in the international market and make our country competitive again.
The feeling of insecurity is so deep that no one gives oneself a little time to contemplate on the possibility ahead. Apparently, every farmer is asking him/herself, who will stand up for us when our produce will be blocked at the border posts under spurious COVID-19 reasons, especially after learning that the third wave is now on the offing?
Will anyone stand up against the lockdown fashion, the world’s new draconian edict that is being perceived by many including World Health Organisation (WHO) as the benchmark to see if the country is really serious with containing the disease, even when science came to prove again and again that about 80 per cent of the infected patients contracted the disease when were indoors?
Will there be another David to defeat this Goliath and protect these helpless farmers? A sombre mood eclipses everyone when thinking of the future of a 2000MW producing Nyerere Hydroelectric Dam. If this will come into fruition, many processing factories will be launched because the price of electricity will decline from the current 11/- per unit to 7 or even 5/-.
Eventually, many of our produce in their final forms will find markets in more lucrative markets while commanding relatively better prices. Who again will remind our Embassies that they have a big onus to prioritise our economic diplomacy, by marketing our agricultural products while ensuring that we get a fair share of Foreign Direct Investments?
Under JPM, our embassies in Beijing and Stockholm stood out as prefects for the rest by really making traders easily access opportunities in Europe and Asia.
Our missions changed their tone from just ending up bragging about how we helped China regain her seat in United Nations, liberated Sub-Saharan Africa from colonial chains and how Mwalimu Nyerere was a charismatic leader; to how important for those investors to come and set up their plants over here and that it is profitable for them to directly import produce from Tanzania instead of consuming re-exported ones from intermediary markets like Kenya and Dubai.
These questions are real and probably they will not get quick answers but their relevance cannot be taken for granted. They embody fear of unknown which is extinguished not by mere rhetoric but by actions on the ground. But there is a hope ahead, which is deeply rooted in our late President’s speeches.
Not once, not twice, not thrice, but countless times, he reminded us to put our faith and trust in God – our creator – who is omnipotent and everlasting. JPM could always be heard with his rhythmic baritone repeatedly speaking these two sentences, “We must not forsake God” and “Let’s put God first”.
There can’t be more uplifting words than those. By and large, we are not orphaned as the agrarian sector as there is a qualified replacement in the person by President Mama Samia Suluhu Hassan. Her calm yet confident demeanour and experience in the public sector ensures everyone that there might be a continuation of many of Magufuli legacies and some others even argue that she stands to outclass her former boss, nothing can be more exhilarating than that. With our tears still wet in our eyes, we hold this hope that at least we will not stay here nor shall we get back to Egypt as our commitment to revolutionise the sector is stronger now more than ever.