Arusha. A 900,000 Euros (approximately Sh2 billion) fund has been launched to identify the training needs of the horticultural industry.
The Netherlands through NUFFIC, its international cooperation agency in higher education, will provide the funds under its Orange Knowledge Programme.
"We will find out the needs of the industry in as far as training is concerned", said Emmanuel Faustin, the production manager of the Tanzania Horticultural Association (Taha).
He admitted, without giving figures that the fast-growing horticulture industry was short of manpower prompting the intervention.
"Our members get students from the colleges but still there is a huge gap especially for the extension staff", he told The Citizen here over the weekend.
The project kicked off with the first industry assessment meeting organized by Taha at an Arusha hotel which attracted key players of the industry.
These included Taha, the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot), the Sokoine University of Agriculture (Sua) and Horti-Tengeru.
Mr. Faustin added that the training gaps for the multi-billion shilling sector were evident in that there were already seven million small holder farmers and growers.
Dr. Hans Nijhoff from the Netherlands-based Maastrich School of Management said there was no contention horticulture has a great potential for the Tanzanian economy.'
However,she said the sector was short of the skilled people."We are developing modules to be used to train the needed people to take it to another level", she said.
The horticulture exports from Tanzania last year was worth 653 million Euros against 7 billion exports by Netherlands.
The latter is, however, the main importer of the fresh produce from Tanzania for the Dutch market and trans-shipment to other markets in Europe and beyond.
NUFFIC is providing technical support to the project through Orange Knowledge Programme financed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The sub sector registered a growth of 11 per cent in the last seven years.
Projections are that the exports will hit $ 1.3billion in three year's time if the current production trend is sustained.
Dr. Godfrey Komba, the northern zone in charge of the National Council on Technical Education (Nacte) said the project would review the existing training on horticulture.
Horticulture as a full fledged discipline is taught at Sua and Horti-Tengeru, an agricultural training institute on the outskirts of Arusha.