They say it is high time public investment was directed at boosting smallholder farmers. Through a research dubbed Agricultural Water Solutions project funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the dons have called on the government to empower smallholder farmers..
Tanzania is lucky to be among the five countries in Africa, chosen as focal points of the research. Others are Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ghana. In their presentation, Prof Siza Tumbo and Dr Victor Kongo implored the government to draw its attention to agricultural water management, pointing out that it is workable and sustainable.
Stressing on the proper use of water for irrigation, the researchers said 70 per cent of the country’s water is underground and can be tapped through public investment, including loans to individual farmers, groups and SACCOS. Citing South Africa, the dons said a hectare yields up to 13 tones of maize, while in Tanzania, the same produces only one hectare or even less because of non-use of water for irrigation.
Our country is endowed with vast resources lying idle; just waiting for some decision to turn them into useful commodities. Agricultural water management is a significant area of production which has not been tapped fully. Farmers don’t have to wait for rains while there is more than enough water beneath the ground to make agriculture the saviour of many, including the youth who flock to urban centres in search of employment.
In some areas like Coast, Tanga and Zanzibar where vegetables take only two months to mature, small holder farmers may be assisted to acquire implements for irrigation. The only trouble would be how to get market for their produce, although in some way, that would mean looking for markets beyond the country’s borders.
Often there has been emphasis on agriculture as the country’s economic mainstay and the 'Kilimo Kwanza' initiative may be one of the vehicles through which assistance to small holder farmers is channelled. If the government will manage to conquer the hearts of small but important people who feed the nation, it will certainly win the confidence of the rest of the citizenry.