Military comes up with plan to end shortage of edible oil

Saturday November 27 2021
Oil pic3

A sesame grower inspects the flowers of the crop in her farm. Tanzania is strategising on ensuring that it uses its oil producing crops to meet its annual edible oil needs through improved production both in the farm and industries. PHOTO|FILE

By Louis Kalumbia

Mtwara/Dar. The Prisons and the National Service 821KJ in the Bulombora area of Kigoma Region are cultivating 2,000 hectares of palm trees with a view to ending the perennial shortage of edible oil in the country.
Involvement of the Defence and Security Forces in domestic production of palm oil will significantly reduce the amount of foreign currency spent on importing cooking oil.
Statistics show that Tanzania spends over Sh470 billion annually to importat about 400,000 tonnes of cooking oil.
The amount could otherwise be used to fund the implementation of other development projects.
Currently, the country’s demand for cooking oil stands at 650,000 tonnes per year, while annual production stands at about 290,000 tonnes, leaving an annual deficit of about 360,000 tonnes.
However, involvement of the Defence and Security Forces in local palm oil production may help end the deficit.
The initiative came about in response to Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa’s instruction requiring the two to cultivate a total of 8,000 hectares of palm trees.
In implementing the premier’s directive, the Prisons and 821KJ Bulombora collaborated with the Kihinga Centre of the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (Tari) to produce seedlings that will be distributed to security institutions and other farmers.
Speaking to The Citizen, Tari’s Kihinga Centre acting director, Dr Filson Kagimbo, said the Security and Defence Forces should be commended for their involvement in seeds preparation, caring the nurseries and planting seedlings in their respective farms.
“Seedlings are distributed to farmers through the district councils. While Kwitanga Prison is expected to plant 6,000 hectares of palm oil, 821 KJ Bulombora is expected to cultivate 2,000 hectares,” he said.
According to plans, both Defence and Security organs are expected to help the surrounding community by providing them with better palm seedlings.
He said already the National Service has distributed 115,000 seedlings to farmers while the Kwitanga Prison distributing 8,000 seedlings to farmers in different councils free of charge.
According to him, distribution of the seedlings has motivated farmers in the region to fully concentrate in the crop production, a move that will increase palm oil production.
“Farmers are assisted in handling seedlings, which should have been expensive. The costs include the use of fertilisers, fumigation and irrigation that could hardly be afforded by farmers,” he said.
Furthermore, Dr Kagimbo said Security and Defence Forces have enough manpower to carry surveillance and security activities, hence preventing loss of seeds in nurseries.
He said citizens are, therefore, assured access to seedlings through their respective district councils for free - or at affordable prices.
The head of 821 KJ Bulombora, Lieutenant Colonel Emanuel Kakula, said they have cultivated 2,000 hectares of palm trees.
He said the youth who have been deployed for national services were the ones playing an important role in implementing the project.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Kakula the available manpower that attend the training according to demands of the law has encouraged them to cultivate the 2,000 hectares.
“We understand the responsibility we have to produce seeds and seedlings for the two public institutions and the surrounding community that are distributed for free through their respective district councils,” he said.
However, he said the youth who receive life skills and preliminary military training gain better knowledge of the crop farming techniques that will help them in their future - especially if they opt to engage in palm-farming.
The farm assistant manager at 821 KJ Bulombora, Mr Ombeni Mushi, said Tari experts were the ones who provided them with expertise in developing palm oil seeds into seedlings.
“We have distributed 175,000 seedlings to citizens and other government institutions for free. Currently, 165 kilogrammes of seeds have been sown in the nurseries whose seedlings will be distributed to crop stakeholders once they are ready,” he said, adding.
“After having planted 500 hectares, the same amount will be planted this raining season. The exercise is progressive until wee fully realise our targets.”
He said the new palm trees dubbed tenera that matures early and produce high yields have motivated citizens to replace the old palm trees with the new seedlings.
“When all the 2,000 hectares will be harvested, edible oil production will certainly go up,” he said.
The head of Kwitanga Prison, Mr Uswege Mwakahesya, said they were now replacing the old palm oil trees with the newly-developed variety from Tari.
He said seedlings have been planted on 475 hectares, against the 6,000 hectares target that have been respectively distributed to other prisons like Kimbiji and Kalilangurukuru.
“The prison started producing palm oil about 60 years ago. Currently, the trees have got old, resulting in a decline in production. Therefore, we are also replacing the trees with the Tari variety, in response to the government’s call,” he said.
“We have garnered experience from Tari on the best way to prepare our nurseries, germinate the seeds, care for the seedlings and transplanting in the farms.”
He said the prison is privileged due to the presence of prisoners who have been doing the job in the farms by 100 percent.
For her part, the director of Technology Transfer and Partnership, Dr Juliana Mwakasendo, said Tari was ensuring that technology is smoothly transferred from researchers to end users through different methods.
“We aim at efficiency in different crops including palm oil which is among the strategic crops. The crop is expected to end the shortage of edible oil in the country,” he said.
She said that, in supporting the government’s efforts, the Security and Defence Forces have been ensuring that the government’s targets are realised.
“We ensure that all technologies are taken from off shelves and to end-users in low-efficiency areas. Experience shows that the move led to improved productivity in those areas,” she said.
According to Ms Mwakasendo, 65 percent of the factories use crops as raw materials, noting that Tari used the opportunity to ensure that different stakeholders benefit from education on the value chain.
“Not only stakeholders. There also are eight centres that are used to provide education to farmers. We provide education through mass media organs, fliers, posters and social media platforms,” she said.