Dar es Salaam: Former United Nations (UN) secretary general Kofi Annan has commended the Tanzania government for the Kilimo Kwanza initiative. Speaking in Dar es Salaam yesterday, he said if implemented effectively, it has the potential of assuring the nation of, not only food security, but also a surplus for export. Mr Annan made the observations at a press conference organised at the end of his tour of the country to inspect agricultural projects supported by Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), which he chairs. He said he was optimistic that the initiative would resonate with the country’s strategy to establish bread baskets which will usher in investment plans and help the country emerge as an agricultural power house.
'From what I have seen (in a two-day visit of projects in Mbeya Region) I am convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that Tanzania’s agricultural sector has great potentials and can play a big role in the global food security system. Indeed, I believe Tanzania has a potential not only to feed its own citizens but to become a bread basket for the rest of Africa,' he said.
However, Mr Annan said basing on his experience when he toured Mbeya, much still needed to be done to make the dream of liberalising agriculture a reality. Outlining some of his recommendations, Mr Annan said since the smallholder farming sub-sector in the country offered the most potential and opportunity for development, there was a need for the government to make sure that more investments are directed in that area.
'I think Tanzania should copy what some other countries, like India, do. They ensure that small-scale farmers are serviced properly, something that makes it easy for them to acquire loans... the country should also increase investments in new agricultural technologies which will benefit smallholder farmers,' he suggested.
Offering other recommendations, Mr Annan said the government should invest more resources on education for scientists, especially among women scientists who were still few.
Mr Annan proposed that the government should evolve a special programme that would target youths and women who were very critical players in improving the value chain of agriculture. He also said the private sector must be targeted due to the important role it plays in supporting Africa smallholder farmers through transfer of technology and expertise.
Responding to questions from journalists, Mr Annan expressed his concern on the ongoing political unrest in some African countries like Ivory Coast, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He said if left to continue they might be the source of food insecurity in the continent. Added Mr Annan: 'We need to stop these senseless wars for the sake of African development. Our attention should be focused on economic development programmes instead of mediating these senseless wars.'
In his tour of Mbeya Region from Friday, Mr Annan, two Agra board members and a president visited smallholder farmers, agro dealers, a research institute and warehouse projects which Agra supports. He kicked off his visit on Saturday morning by visiting a group of about 1,000 farmers at Utengule who have developed an irrigation scheme and have been using improved seeds.
The small scale farmers told Mr Annan and his team that their project was progressing well. However, they said that they faced marketing problems since their productivity had increased after embracing modern agriculture practices and using effective inputs. He then visited Iyula village where he met Jumamosi Baraka, who has established himself as an independent agro dealer following support from Agra through the National Microfinance Bank (NBM).
Mr Baraka said the improvement of his activities has helped the farmers who were now not obliged to travel long distances in search of agricultural inputs. In his shop, which he runs alongside his wife, Mr Baraka has stocked quality seeds, fertiliser, herbicides, pesticides and other inputs.
On Sunday Mr Annan visited the Uyole Research station where he witnessed activities to develop improved seed varieties being undertaken by local researchers led by Dr Catherine Madata, the Director of the Uyole Research Institute. At the station the Agra board members witnessed efforts to develop new traits of maize, beans and soya seeds which suit diverse climates of various areas in Tanzania.