Sky is the limit for Rukwa peasants

Sky is the limit for Rukwa peasants

The region invites private investors to lend a hand in this area. Rukwa also has stocks of fish, honey, timber and beeswax. Livestock rearing contributes about 20 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product in Rukwa Region. Farmers keep an average of 12 head of cattle per family.  However, during the past ten years, there has been a huge influx of agro-pastoralists from Tabora, Shinyanga and Mwanza to the region in search of pasture for their livestock.

Migrant pastoralists keep herds that are too large. A family of migrants keeps between 100 and 300 head of cattle. This has pushed the population of cattle in Rukwa region to an estimated 512,700.  The areas suitable for grazing in various parts of Rukwa region cover 1,536,894 hectares.  Unfortunately some 339,952 hectares, which are suitable for both grazing and agriculture, are heavily infested with tsetse flies and are completely inhospitable.

The total area for agriculture is 2,357,028 hectares and the area currently under cultivation is 490,182 hectares. The suitable areas for grazing, if well developed, can hold up to 727,093 cattle (equivalent to 508,965 Tropical Livestock Units).  At the moment Rukwa has 512,722 head of cattle, 112,395 goats, 21,895 sheep, 5,833 donkeys, 38,865 pigs, 3,317 rabbits, 621,508 chicken, 70,237 ducks and 8,183 guinea fowls (kanga). There are three cattle ranches in the region.  

These are Malonje (in Sumbawanga Municipality), which is owned by Dafco;  Nkundi (in Nkasi district), which is owned by Sumbawanga Agricultural and Animal Feeds Industry (SAAFI) and Kalambo (in Nkasi district) which is owned jointly by Narco and private individuals.

According to a 2002/03 census report, Rukwa has only 1,103 improved dairy cattle. This figure accounts for only 0.27 per cent of the 399,025 dairy cattle in the country.  On the other hand, there are 274 improved beef cattle (about 1.3 per cent of the 20,881 such cattle in the country.

As demand for heifers for both beef and dairy milk is high, private investors are encouraged to lend a hand in this area. Privatisation of small ranches to individuals or groups capable of running them commercially will be a challenge for others to establish more in their areas.

One of the most important activities that can be undertaken to accelerate production of beef and dairy cattle is the production of heifers that could be sold to small-scale farmers. Markets for livestock products are mainly the urban centres in the region and Kasevya on the Zambian border.  A modern meat processing factory named SAAFI is operational in Sumbawanga.  Its abattoir has capacity to slaughter 150 animals per day -- producing prime cuts, carcasses and sausages.

The market for the factory's products include Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, tourist hotels in Bagamoyo and countries bordering Rukwa, including Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Rwanda.   The products are also shunted to Comoro and the Gulf states. Investment in small, medium and large-scale processing industries will increase the value of livestock products, thus ensuring cattle-keepers higher prices for their animals.

If milk and meat are processed, they can be preserved for longer periods while awaiting better markets in or outside the region.
Opportunities for investments have been identified in ranches for modern livestock keeping; establishment of zero grazing and feedlot farms; poultry farms; modern abattoirs; tanneries, industries for processing livestock products such as horns, hoofs and leather and establishment of animal feed industries.

Rukwa region is located between two lakes -- Lake Tanganyika and Lake Rukwa. The region also has two wide rivers -- Ugalla and Sitalike. There are a number of smaller lakes and rivers, all of which have harvestable fish populations. The variety of fish available in Rukwa includes sardines, tilapia, Nile perch, mud fish, English fish (kuhe), luciolates strapessil (migebuka) and various species of decorative fish.

The fishing industry is active and there is notable fish business currently going on within and outside Rukwa to Zambia and the DRC. Statistics show that fish produced between 1997 and 2002 in Rukwa region weighed 102,260 tonnes.  The catch was worth 3,453 bn/-.  Most of the fish were caught in Nkasi district.  The fish industry has not been exploited fully due to a lack of modern fishing equipment, storage facilities, transportation problems and poor extension services.

There is also a lack of reliable market. Honey and beeswax have, for a long time, been produced by traditional beekeepers especially in Mpanda district.  Reliable production date is hard to obtain in virtually all districts.   However, between 1997 and 2001 the region produced 839.17 tonnes of honey worth 236,655,205/-. During the same period the region produced 456.14 tonnes of beeswax worth 144,459,300/-.  

Tanzanian honey has proved to be among the best in the world and can comfortably compete with honey from Australia, China, Mexico and Saudi Arabia if its potential is tapped fully.  Natural forest reserves occupy some 2,827,204 hectares or about 43 per cent of Rukwa region.  Most of these forests are located in Mpanda district. Forest products are harvested from the Miombo Woodlands which are mostly located in Mpanda and Nkasi districts.

Commercially valuble timber includes Mninga (pterocarpus angolensis). Other forest products include a variety of construction timber; fuel wood and charcoal. It is in these forests where beehives (for collection of honey and beeswax are installed.  Products from agro-forests also includes poles, construction timber, fruits and tree seeds. At the moment, the main customers for Rukwa agro-forest products include local traders and consumers and limited exportation.  

A small quantity of soft and hard wood is exported to the Arab world and the European market. Timber from Rukwa has a ready market inroads in Tanzanian regions especially in Tabora, Mwanza, Dodoma, Morogoro and Dar es Salaam. Of the 1.5 million hectares of the plateau, over 700,000 hectares of land are completely deforested -- resulting in shortage of wood for both construction and fuel. 

The situation forces women to travel long distances in search of fuel wood. Efforts are underway to set aside specific areas and hills for regeneration, protect water sources and encourage local authorities to buy black wattle seeds for distribution and planting in the villages.

TO some, Moses Mbaga, is an Al Muntazir ...


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