Why Tanzanians are not worried about food security

As African countries are becoming more food secure, agroecology can further improve nutrition and agricultural productivity and therefore boost the food situation in the continent. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • A new report by the new United Nations shows that nearly 799 million people in Africa suffered from food insecurity in 2021.

Dar es Salaam. At a time when a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa face food shortages, official figures in Tanzania show that Tanzanians have no reasons to worry as the country has maintained its sufficiency levels at an average of above 120 percent for the past five years.

A new report by the new United Nations shows that nearly 799 million people in Africa suffered from food insecurity in 2021.

The 2022 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (Sofi) indicates that the most vulnerable population is in the SSA and the Near East and North Africa regions also because of the ongoing civil conflicts in several countries in the region.

Other factors include high poverty levels and dependency on imported food commodities from Europe such as wheat, maize and vegetable oil making poor consumers vulnerable to price shocks.

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) president Gilbert Houngbo said the figures are depressing and it shows that not only in Africa but globally we are far behind on the target to eradicate hunger come 2030.

However, the situation is different in Tanzania as the country, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, remains has adequate reserves for its people.

In his budget speech last month the minister Hussein Bashe revealed that while the nation’s annual food demand as of 2021 stood at 14, 835, 101 tonnes the yearly production level was at 18, 665, 217 tonnes.

“Those requirements compared to production indicate that the country has produced a surplus of 3,830,116 tonnes of food where 1,425,655 tonnes are for cereals and 2,404,461 tonnes is non-cereal crops. As a result, the nation is 126 percent self-sufficient in food,” he said.

He also revealed that for the past five years 2016 to 2022 Tanzania had promising productivity making the country sufficient by an average of 122.8 percent.

Going forward, he said, “The government plan to increase production of food crops from 18.6 million tonnes to 20.23 million tonnes in the current fiscal year,”

Speaking to The Citizen, the director of the National Food Security Division at the ministry of Agriculture, Dr Honest Kessy, said ecological factors, crop diversification and policy commitments by the government has helped the country to sustain its domestic food production.

Dr Kessy said apart from the ongoing political tensions and pandemic woes, climate change was also a pivotal event in the sector, as changes in the rainfall patterns affected farming activities.

“Advantage is that based on our ecology we have different agriculture zones, thus while some regions receive little to no rainfall there are places like southern highlands which received decent rains and production was good, and that is where most of our surplus come from,”

“Crops diversification also helps, as we are not dependent on just grains and we have regions like Kagera, Mbeya, Kilimanjaro producing bananas, potatoes, beans and other produce,” he said.

The government has also expressed commitment in the current fiscal year to encourage irrigation farming, improve domestic quality seed and fertilizer production to sustain production.

According to the ministerial budget for the 2022/2023 fiscal year the government has increased the irrigation budget from Sh46.5 billion of previous fiscal year to Sh361.5 billion.

The government also plans to expand storage facilities, funding for agriculture research and subsidies for fertilizers.

This will be a good move for Tanzania as the UN World Food Programme (WFP) executive director David Beasley said the price increase in food, fuel and fertilizsrs as a result of the crisis in Ukraine threaten to push countries around the world into famine.

“The result will be global destabilization, starvation, and mass migration on an unprecedented scale. We have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe,” Mr Beasley said during the launch of the Sofi report.