Many a foreigner that visits Tanzania witnesses it is a corrupt country with no rule of law.
Irrigation, get real!!!
Needed: Workable strategies to expand irrigation farming
Many a foreigner who visit Tanzania and witness the abundant resources that the country is blessed with do not hide their feelings. They say ours is a country that is not supposed to be poor given the resources we are endowed with.
Water happens to be one of the major resources that this country has in plenty and which if fully exploited could uplift Tanzania from its present state of underdevelopment.
Few African countries, if any, can match the potential that we have: From Lake Victoria basin, which is part of the Nile River basin, Pangani River basin, Ruvu/Wami River, Rufiji River basin, Ruvuma River and Southern Coast and Lake Nyasa basin, which is part of the Zambezi River basin.
We also have Lake Tanganyika basin, Lake Eyasi, Lake Manyara and Lake Rukwa basin.
And yet with all this potential, the major constraint facing the country’s agriculture sector remains falling labour and land productivity due to application of poor technology and dependence on unreliable weather.
It is because of this major hitch that while agriculture accounts for 80 per cent of employment and 75 per cent of rural household income, it provides only 27 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
For this reason the government strategy of coming out with a plan whose objective is to expand the national irrigation schemes from the current 331,490 hectares to 1,000,000 by the year 2015 makes a lot of sense.
According to the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives, Christopher Chiza who announced the plan in Morogoro last week, the move is part of a broad strategy to increase food security in the country.
We, however, wish to put on record our cautious optimism on the whole plan – not because we doubt the government’s resolve on this important undertaking – but because we want the plan to succeed and help liberate the Tanzanian farmer from grinding poverty.
To reach the envisaged target, there must be concrete strategies – with timeframe and benchmarks – to put under irrigation farming at least 150,000 hectares every year over the next five years.
Those strategies need to be transparently worked out specifying the part to be played by the public sector and more importantly; the private sector.
The government has also acknowledged one major constraint: Lack of sufficient irrigation engineers oversee implementation of commercial-scale irrigation schemes.
According to the deputy agriculture minister, the government needs 350 irrigation engineers to oversee its various district-level projects, while at present it has only 140 engineers assigned to a handful of district councils and regional secretariats.
It is therefore, crucial that there must be in place concrete plans and strategies to roll out from institutions of higher learning within and outside the country the required experts to shoulder this challenging responsibility.
We strongly believe - as the government has shown it does - that, irrigation holds the key to stabilizing agricultural production in Tanzania, to improve food security, increase farmers’ productivity and incomes, and also to produce higher value crops.
Now is the time to show in action that irrigation is the key with which to unlock Tanzania’s agricultural productivity.