The chairman of the board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), Mr Hailemariam Dessalegn, has said that Tanzania “has the potential to feed the whole of Africa”. He said this in Dar es Salaam on Monday when he was engaging Agra staff in the country, a session which was also attended by former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, who is an Agra board member.
Mr Dessalegn bases this reasoning on several factors that include favourable climatic conditions; good soils; a youthful population and a propensity for mechanisation – all of which “could be harnessed to meet the (African) continent’s food needs.”
But, there is a caveat to that, the former prime minister of Ethiopia says, stressing that the foregoing is very much possible “with proper investment. Tanzania is one of the few countries in Africa that have the potential to feed the whole continent,” he stressed. How true, we unhesitatingly say. Also, we unreservedly agree with Retired President Kikwete who, at the meeting, rooted for increased research, mechanisation, irrigation and farmer finance in transforming Tanzania’s agricultural prospects.
Noting that smallholder farmers are being greatly affected by climate change, Dr Kikwete called for researchers and other experts to help the smallholders to “cope with the challenge, and increase their productivity”. Very briefly put, Agra is a farmer-centred, African-led and partnerships-driven institution that is out and out to transform smallholder farming in Africa from a solitary struggle to survive through subsistence farming to something of commercial farming that thrives as a business.
The alliance’s ultimate goal is “to increase incomes, and improve food security, for some 30 million smallholder farm households in 11 African countries by 2021”, including Tanzania.
Agra is basically doing the foregoing through the development of integrated core agricultural systems for key value chains in the sector. The systems include – but are by no means limited to – the use of quality seeds, fertilisers, extension services, agro-dealerships, reliable markets and agricultural finance.
As one of the eleven Agra-covered nations in Africa, Tanzania does indeed have the potential not only to become Africa’s bread/food basket; the United Republic also provides huge opportunities for poverty reduction in general.
For starters, only 33 percent of the 44 million hectares of the country’s arable land was under cultivation – with about 65 percent of the working population being engaged in agricultural harnessing and development activities.
In any case, both the former Ethiopian Prime Minister Dessalegn and former Tanzania President Kikwete are very much correct in seeing Tanzania as a potential food basket for the rest of Africa. This is in the sense of being able to meet the continent’s food needs on a sustainable basis.
And so, too, are the two leaders correct in predicating attainment of that noble continental status upon such conditionalities as increased investments along the agricultural value chain, and implementing changes which are designed to improve productivity-cum-production in the agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors.
What this boils down to is for Tanzania to move heaven and earth – and everything else in-between – to ensure that the Dessalgen/Kikwete projections become a reality on the ground, with Tanzania finally feeding Africa.