Friday, February 17, 2017

Heed farmers’ demand for extension officers’ support

Current press reports give a clear indication that Tanzanian farmers are keen on modernising agriculture. There is a hue and cry over lack of extension officers, the same public employees some farmers used to chase away in the past, because peasants considered such experts “too young to teach mature people anything”.

Our farmers are increasingly becoming aware that old style agricultural method which, at most, would only guarantee enough to eat till the next harvest season, is not good enough. In a story The Citizen ran yesterday, for instance, farmers in Chunya are reported as wanting to be told why extension officers don’t visit villagers to give them advice on good farming methods.

Large scale farmers in Mbozi are challenging the government to make use of research findings that could give insights on how to improve yields. And indeed, these people are right—numerous researches on seeds, pest control and crop suitability and yield increase have been carried out, but most findings are left to gather dust in files even as farmers continue to undertake agriculture in the same ways our forefathers did things in pre-colonial days.

These sentiments should be a challenge to policy makers, who are won’t to proclaim that agriculture is the backbone of Tanzania’s economy while it continues to get an allocation of, at most, six per cent against 10 per cent set under Maputo Declaration of 2003.

This is a sector which employs at least 70 per cent of the population, contributing 28 per cent of the GDP, 30 per cent of export earnings and 65 per cent of inputs to the industrial sector.

Which is to say, the significance of the need to make agriculture more rewarding to our farmers cannot be overemphasised. Tanzanian farmers, who have traditionally been viewed as conservatives, are getting more enlightened and appreciate the need to modernise their agriculture. The government must not let them down.