In my piece two weeks ago titled ‘Impact of Covid-19 on Food Security’, I dwelt on the possibility – buttressed by a report of the World Food Programme (WFP) – that the health-turned-economic pandemic would adversely affect food security for our country and the region at large.
Little did we know then that, in the subsequent two weeks, other world agencies – including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Energy Council and the World Health Organization – would urge precautionary measures designed to ensure that the African continent does not slide into famine on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.
To paraphrase Dr Richard Munang – currently the Africa Regional Climate Change Coordinator at the UN Environment Programme (Unep), food security is a human right.
This is if only because food security touches in one way or another on peace and stability, as well as human health, water supplies and the environment in general.
At the regional level, closure of both the Mozambique and Kenyan borders with Tanzania ostensibly to curb spread of the pandemic was an issue of grave concern. False political prophets would have us believe that Tanzania was not adversely impacted by closure of the common border.
Fortunately, the World Bank just as soon stepped in with support for countries in difficulty, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Senegal in sub-Sahara Africa, among many more.
In Kenya – where testing for the new coronavirus continues, and proven Covid-19 cases had numbered 13,353 in total by 09:02GMT on July 20 this year – the World Bank is supporting 15 agriculture technology startups by providing them with inputs, soil testing, crops insurance, credit extension and counselling.
It would be foolhardy for Tanzania to believe that it is an island in the middle of a turbulent world. This is especially considering that the countries which have, for instance, closed their borders are interlinked with us.
While our grain reserves at the National Food Reserve Agency may seem good on the face of it, Tanzanian farmers and other producers are losing export markets.
As Edward Mukiibi writes in the Switzerland-based Agriculture and Human Values journal, the reality is that Covid-19 has caused devastation in many countries around the world. We, therefore, also need to focus upon the threat the pandemic poses on food supplies.
The informal sector in Tanzania – comprises the majority of the urban population – could have been cushioned from the vagaries of pandemic for reasons other than mere prayers.
The food value chain has, however, continues to suffer from lack of free movement of goods, including food items, that was a daily source of income for farmers and traders supplying food to our northern neighbours.
Politics of yesteryears and Covid-19 management aside, the opportunity continues to exist for Tanzania to continue producing food for peace and inherent security. The point here is that food means a lot more than full bellies. Food availability means that a neighbour who needs it must come to the negotiating table. After all, when it comes down to it, where there is food a-plenty, there is unbounded peace and stability a-plenty.
Recent floods and locust swarms in the region threatened devastation, with over 12 million East Africans estimated to face food shortages. However, this does indeed present opportunities.
One opportunity is to increase food crops production on a sustainable basis, and bolster use of related resources and facilities, including grain handling and storage to minimize post-harvest losses.
‘Policy Briefs’ by the Economic and Social Research Foundation also regularly weigh in, saying conflicts, natural disasters, climate change and locust invasions all contribute in one way or another to disrupting food systems around the world.
Tanzania has everything going for it – given especially its assorted comparative advantages...
It is that time again when the government, working closely with the private sector and non-governmental agencies, must come together and convert to the benefit of its people well-thought-out policies and regulatory frameworks in the potentially-endowed agriculture sector.