TZ insecure as 61 districts face severe food shortages

Locals repack relief maize into smaller bags. The maize was distributed by a religious organisation to thousands to people who faced hunger in Manyani District, Singida Region this year. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • State minister in the President’s Office Stephen Wassira told the World’s Food Day gathering in Manyara Region recently that the country’s food situation is appalling and needs immediate measures to save millions of people from starvation. The State of Food Insecurity in the World report says some developed countries also face critical food shortages.

Dar es Salaam. Despite various initiatives and measures taken to improve food availability and sustainability in the country, hunger is still prevalent in some parts of the country; The Citizen on Sunday can report.

As we bring you this special report in Tanzania, 61 districts face acute food shortage – a clear indication that more efforts need to be made to improve the food situation, especially for the country that has been bestowed with abundant and suitable land for farming.

The state of food insecurity being experienced in some parts of the country has been retarding efforts to capitalise on and commercialise the agricultural sector through the ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ initiative.

Inefficient application of science and technology in crop production among farmers as well as poor climatic conditions and the rapidly growing population, are some of the key setbacks in addressing food availability and sustainability challenges in the country, whose agriculture largely depend on seasonal rains.

Even though Tanzania celebrated the World’s Food Day at the national level on October 16 in Manyara Region, it still has a long way to go to improve food security in some parts of the country, where the problem has been recurring over the years.

World statistics on food security show that about 842 million people – roughly one in eight, suffered from chronic hunger between 2011 and 2013. Despite the fact that this has dropped down from 868 million people who suffered from hunger  during the 2010-2012 season, food security is still a big challenge in both developed and developing nations.

The new State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2013 report compiled by the UN Food Agency, Fao, reveals that from 842 million people who suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-2013, 15.7 per cent of them (132.2 million) live in developed countries.

In poor countries like Tanzania, the report says hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared.

“Growth can raise incomes and reduce hunger, but higher economic growth may not reach everyone,” stresses the report.

Speaking recently during the celebrations to mark the World’s Food Day in Manyara Region, Mr Stephen Wassira, the minister of State in the President’s Office charged with Social Relations and Coordination, said that in 2012/13 Tanzania managed to produce 13.34 million tonnes of food that were able to sustain the country by 112 per cent.

However, between February and March this year, the country had to import some 20,000 tonnes of maize from Zambia under special bilateral arrangements between the two countries because some parts of Tanzania faced acute food shortages.

Mr Wassira noted that the government was working out  ways to curb food challenges that are facing 61 local authorities in Tanzania, including collecting enough food stocks through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) and encouraging modern agricultural practices.

By September, according to the Bank of Tanzania (BoT)’s Monthly Economic Report (MER), the NFRA had managed to collect 175,609 tonnes of grains up from 71,141 tonnes in the previous month (August).

This is a major milestone by  the NFRA as compared to the food situation between January and June when the national grain stocks went down to 26,802 tonnes in May and 27,494 tonnes in June which necessitated importation of emergency food supplies.

According to the minister, the 175,609 tonnes are part of 200,000 tonnes of grains the NFRA intends to collect in the 2013/14 financial year.

However, the mismatch between the swelling of the national food stock and food shortages being experienced in some parts of the country is a subject of concern.

“Our plan in this 2013/14 financial year is to collect more than 200,000 tonnes of major food crops, after learning that about 61 districts in the country face food shortages,” remarked Mr Wassira in his address at the World’s Food Day celebrations.

Statistics from the ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives show that 13 regions of Arusha, Dodoma, Kilimanjaro, Lindi, Mara, Manyara, Morogoro, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Singida, Tabora, Kagera and Tanga have been experiencing food shortage – a situation prompting intervention by the government to salvage them from further negative impact of food shortage.

Apart from climatic challenges, food shortage situations are being attributed to inefficiency in agricultural research institutions and seed breeders which are still facing hardships in producing enough seeds and distributing them to farmers on time.

In his recent remarks, the minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Christopher Chiza, said that in this 2013/14 fiscal year his ministry planned to facilitate production of ten tonnes of breeders’ seeds for cereals, vegetables, legumes and oil seeds crops to help the Agricultural Seed Agency (Asa) to supply more seeds.

But, even though these are good and promising plans, they still can’t meet the over 70 per cent population of people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture.

Globally, according to the new State of Food Insecurity in the World report, there has been an overall progress in food availability and sustainability, though Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with modest progress in recent years.

It adds that continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Higher farm productivity growth, supported by increased public investment as well as renewed interest of private investors in agriculture have also helped to improve food availability.

The report is published every year by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), and has defined chronic hunger as “not getting enough food to lead active and healthy life.” It suggests that policies should focus on enhancing agricultural productivity and increasing food availability by targeting smallholders.

“Long-term commitment to mainstreaming food security and nutrition in public policies and programmes is key to hunger reduction,” says part of the report.

It adds, “Keeping food security and agriculture high on the development agenda, through comprehensive reforms, improvements in the investment climate, supported by sustained social protection, is crucial for achieving major reductions in poverty and undernourishment.”

Furthermore the report stresses that when these are combined with social protection and other measures that increase the incomes of poor families to buy food, they can have an even more positive impact and help spur rural development by creating vibrant markets and employment opportunities, making possible equitable economic growth.