Three major projects set to change Tanzania’s rice farming

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The above challenge is largely due to such factors as lack of irrigation infrastructure, low-yield seeds and outdated farming practices.

Dar es Salaam. Rice cultivation in Tanzania is still characterized by low yield and productivity, and this is now set to change with the introduction of three mega-projects in the sub-sector.

The above challenge is largely due to such factors as lack of irrigation infrastructure, low-yield seeds and outdated farming practices.

Rice farming is also faced by other challenges like poor roads to the market, lack of quality storage facilities and post-harvest losses.

All these factors make it nearly impossible for rice farmers to improve their lives.

Experts are of the view that post-harvest losses accounts for up to 40 per cent of total harvests.

However, in a bid to change all the above, Helvetas Swiss Inter-cooperation and Southern Agriculture Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot) have launched three rice farming projects worth euros 4.5 million (about Sh10 billion).

The project is funded by the European Union and implemented by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Helvetas and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF).

Helvetas Swiss Inter-cooperation, Tanzania country director Shiva Aryal said the projects aim at boosting output, improve the value chain of smallholder rice farmers and increase their competitiveness. The projects will be implemented in Morogoro and Iringa regions.

“Tanzania rice sub sector is fast growing with an average growth rate of 8.2 per annually, however, limited access to affordable financial support and weak market linkages remain major challenges,” he said.

Studies conducted in 2012/15 by Helvetas in central corridor regions including Morogoro, found that rice farming was currently dominated by subsistence framers aged between 19 and 56, and accounting for 75 per cent of total crop farmers.

The study showed ownership of assets, in particular land and farm implements was dominated by men, although 60 to 80 per cent women contribute to agricultural labour force.

Youth and women play significant roles in rice farming therefore special attention to empower them with technical and entrepreneurial skills are needed.

“Our experience in post-harvest management shows that is important to build capacities for smallholders farmers,” he said.

European Union ambassador to Tanzania Roelend Van de Geer said the support was aimed at not only supporting farmers but also increase food security in the country.

“Over two decades, we have supported improvement of production of several crops including coffee, tea, vegetables and fruits, cotton and sugar, now we want support rice because it a necessary staple food consumed by both poor and rich,” he said.

For her part, the deputy minister for Agriculture, Dr Mary Mwanjelwa, expressed her optimism that the three projects would address challenges holding back development of rice farming in Tanzania and hence boost production.