The scheme has been seen as a brilliant idea and already some leading nations in the world, including, Europe, US and Japan and a number of multinational companies have expressed interest in financing the scheme.
This is an encouraging show of cooperation that the nation should honour. The SAGCOT scheme is a highly ambitious initiative that is organized through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.
It focuses on promoting clusters of profitable farming with major benefits going to small-scale farmers and local communities. The scheme that President Jakaya Kikwete presented at the WEF won most hearts. Delegates from Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Mexico, Ghana and Indonesia said they would adopt it.
The idea of the scheme is to put more food on the table mainly at home. Surplus produce would be exported. The initiative also seeks to eliminate the spectre of hunger which often afflicts residents in the central and northern parts of the country. The country’s surface area which accounts for about 80 per cent is dominated by wood, grass and scrub.
Arable land is estimated to be 40 million hectares or 42 per cent of the land. But reports indicate that only 13 per cent of the arable area is actually cultivated. The farms covered four million hectares. A further 1.1 million hectares are under permanent crops. However, Tanzania has no reason to have hungry citizens in one area and bumper harvests in another.
After all, even the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) hold enough food to ward off hunger. Going by statistics, agriculture provides work for 14.7 million Tanzanians. This figure also translates to 79 per cent of the total economically active population. And, it would be remiss not to say that 54 per cent of agricultural workers are women and that small-scale subsistence farmers comprise over 80 per cent of the farming population.
It is, therefore, important that farmers, who make up nearly 90 per cent of the 40 million plus population need a lot of societal support. It is these mostly poor peasant farmers who eke out a living out of farm work and produce surplus to feed the rest of the population. The food crops grown mainly in the Southern Highlands, the nation’s bread basket, are maize, sorghum, millet, paddy, wheat, sweet potato, cassava, pulses and bananas. Hunger never stalks the highlands which comprise, Mbeya, Iringa, Ruvuma and Rukwa regions.
These are the Big Four. Ironically, while farmers in the Southern Highlands complain that the surplus food stockpiled in their home reserves is spoiling for lack of markets, residents in Manyara, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Mara, Arusha and Tabora struggle with pangs of hunger. This is an unacceptable scenario. There should be an elaborate mechanism that enables food deficient areas to get supplies from affluent regions. If successful, the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania will help address this problem.
The government has already taken serious measures such as a research on a variety of seeds that can adapt to different situations, as well as the execution of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) scheme which has showed success in agricultural yield.