Tanzania’s population dynamics and food security

What you need to know:

  • Generally, food security varies between geographical locations, type of crop, and demand of particular crop for various consumption purposes.

By Chirsker Masaki

Tanzania recorded a population of 61.7 million people being an increase of 16.8 million from 44.9 million recorded in 2012 census.

With growth rate of 3.2 percent per annual, the current population is expected to double by 2044 implying increased demand in social services. Sequentially, global population is projected to increase from the current size of 7 billion to 9.1 billion by 2050 whereby, the three-quarter of this increase will come from Sub Saharan African countries (Tanzania inclusive).

Again this projection implies increase in demand of 3 billion metric tons of cereals for human food and animal feeds by 2050.

As the country aspires to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (especially SDG 2) of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030; the relationship between population growth and food shortage raises a wake up call of whether the same attests the relevance of Rev.

Thomas Malthus theory that “production of food will not be able to keep up with growth as human population increases”.

In his theory Malthus suggested that technological advances could increase society’s supply of resources (food inclusive) to improve standard of living in order to realize increased per capita income.

Generally, food security varies between geographical locations, type of crop, and demand of particular crop for various consumption purposes.

However, there is increased demand pressure originating from ongoing population growth, increase in technology and industrial revolution that has increased demand for foods and non- foods crops for various uses including sources of renewable energy such as biofuels.

Domestically, crop production is characterized with low productivity, high dependence on rain fed, use of rudimentary technologies, limited access to finance and lack of agricultural insurance to mention few.

Despite of having young population structure (with concentration of more youth), the underlying sectoral challenges does not provide incentives for youth to participate in agribusiness.

As a function of arable land, labour (human capital) and technology, crop production needs technological and financial incentives to attract more youth to engage in agribusiness to increase productivity within the fixed size of arable land.

Nonetheless, with ongoing global climate change, it is relevant and according to Malthus theory, more advanced and innovative methods are needed in agriculture sector in order to increase food production to sustain continuously growing population. This is to say, use of traditional seeds can no longer provide the expected yield in this era calling for improved seeds that can adapt ongoing climate change; over-cultivated soil need stabilization through application of fertilizers to retain soil nutrients.

Rudimentary farming, harvesting and storage technologies are not appropriate to sustain the increasing food demand at country and global level. Hence forth, tackling these challenges needs a set of policy interventions and state commitments to change the current and future likelihood of food crisis.

Employing about 61 percent of country’s population, agriculture sector apart from provision of food for human and animal consumption, it provides inputs for industrial production and contributes largely to country’s economic growth, thus, our today’s commitment not only will determine future country’s food self-sufficiency but is a way to poverty alleviation contribution of country’s economic growth.

To this end, the seeming disconnects between population growth, food security and economic growth need holistic approach that integrate joint efforts of public and private sector.

In my own opinions the holistic approach should consider (i) Robust investment in macro and micro irrigation technologies and infrastructures for the country to go away from rain fed agriculture and associated climate change hitches, (ii) Set enabling environment for increased access to credit facilities at an affordable rate to facilitate more investment. It is hypothesized that, increasing credit facility will enable graduation from small-scale subsistence farming to medium-scale commercial farming, (iii) Promote large scale farming through public-private partnership by focusing on selected crops that are widely consumed and with national interest for example edible oil seeds and cereals that are used for human and animal consumption; and (iv) Strengthen market system of agriculture produce to ensure fair play by all actors through provision of prices that provides return on investment among producers for poverty alleviation and country’s economic growth.

The Author ([email protected]) is a senior researcher at Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB). The views presented here are that of author and has no connection with the Bank