Farmers in the country have all reasons to smile if this year’s budget goes through. The government has promised to strengthen the implementation of the Kilimo Kwanza policy in order to increase food production and ensure food security…
Reading the 2012/13 budget speech in Dodoma yesterday, the Minister for Finance, Hon. Dr. William Augustao Mgimwa said the government will ensure adherence of all the ten pillars of Kilimo Kwanza.
The policy’s first pillar is adopting the National Vision of Kilimo Kwanza which includes modernizing and commercializing agriculture. The second pillar talks about Financing Kilimo Kwanza which is supposed to see budget allocation to the agriculture sector increasing gradually. The initial allocation when the policy was introduced four years ago was supposed to be not less that 10 percent of the budget.
Pillar number three talks about institutional reorganization for management of Kilimo Kwanza. Pillar Number four is paradigm shift to strategic framework of Kilimo kwanza which emphasizes identification of priority areas for strategic food commodities for the country’s food self sufficiency.
Pillar number five emphasizes on amending the Village Land Act No.5 to facilitate equitable access to village land for Kilimo Kwanza while pillar number six speaks about incentives to stimulate Kilimo Kwanza. Pillar number seven is on industrialization to address the needs of agricultural producers and number eight on utilization of science and technology and human resources for Kilimo Kwanza.
The ninth pillar is about infrastructure development and pillar number ten calls for mobilization of Tanzanians for Kilimo Kwanza.
Among the government’s promises in this year’s budget is to ensure agricultural inputs reach the intended farmers on time, agricultural extension officers will have their own farms as examples to educate farmers on modern farming methods and emphasis will be put on irrigation farming.
The government also plans to improve and strengthen markets for crops through the Mixed Crops Board which has started its operations and Regions will continue allocating land and villages surveying as well as formalizing their land for local and foreign investors. A total of 192.2bn/- has been allocated for the purpose.
The message has been received well by farmers though many are skeptical on the implementation of the good plans. Like one interviewed farmer in Kagera, Esther Kato put it, they are used to sweet promises and good policies that only end up in shelves.
Amos Msanga from Ludewa welcomes the move which he says is very important if the country’s objective to revolutionalise the sector is to be met. However, he is skeptical on the implementation of the promise which he says is always a problem.
On having farm implements reach farmers on time, Amos gives an example of Ludewa District in Njombe Region where he says farmers normally get implements when they no longer need them.
“This year for example, we got fertilizer in March while we had already weeded twice having had sowed seeds in December. Most farmers accepted the fertilizer only because they had registered but just kept it in their homes,” says Msanga.
He says fertilizer is a very important input in agriculture and that timing is very important.
A farmer in Dodoma, Silvanus Pongolo concedes, saying farmers in Chamwino have resorted to other means since they never get fertilizer on time.
“We have resorted to cow dung now that we get fertilizer late. The government needs to be committed on this if it wants to redeem small farmers from poverty,” says Pongolo wondering whether this is not why Kilimo Kwanza policy was formulated in the first place.
Amos, the farmer from Ludewa says now that we are in the science and technology era, farmers too need to move with time. Instead, farmers are still farming through experience. “We need to do modern farming. The agriculture experts we have here operate from their offices. They don’t visit farmers in the field because they don’t have transport,” says Msanga. He calls upon the government to give the agricultural extension officers transport means so they can reach farmers whose fields are very far where the soil is fertile. Pongolo the Dodoma farmer shares the same sentiment. He says they have one of the best agricultural extension officers in Chamwino but whose operations are hampered by lack of transport. He suggests the government facilitates such people with motorcycles at least so they can reach as many farmers as possible.
The farmers need the government to put in place a mechanism for educating farmers on how to farm depending on the changing weather patterns. Failure to do so, farmers believe, they will never take a step forward and Kilimo Kwanza policy will be meaningless.
A Strategic Management expert who is also the Director of Youth Development in the Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, Dr. Elisante Ole Gabriel says government needs to inject funds in the sector to make implementation of its plans for the sector possible. Apart from funds, the expert who is also an economist says commitment of the policy implementers is also very important.
“It’s not only the availability of funds but other resources and commitment of the implementers. Allocating budget is one thing and availability of funds is another,” says Dr. Gabriel.
Dr. Gabriel sees marketing as another major tragedy in Kilimo Kwanza implementation. He says he does not see marketing being given the weight it deserves in the ten pillars of the policy. He says finding markets for farm produces both locally and internationally is very important.
He is supported by Msanga who says farmers’ produces normally rot in their farms due to lack of market. And when they get market, they normally sell at a loss compared to the production costs they incur.
Dr. Gabriel says there is no way we can improve if the cost of production remains high. He says the price and cost of production is not always realistic.
“There is no clear analysis of market price and cost of production. We tend to protect consumers and not the farmers. The government needs to subsidise to ease the farmers’ production costs. That’s how it can curb inflation,” says Dr. Gabriel.
Looking on the output is very important in making Kilimo Kwanza a success. The value chain and supply chain management are very critical. We need to manage well the distribution channels of the harvests. We need to add value to our produces if we need to get good money in the end.
Dr. Gabriel says people don’t buy products but value and that we therefore need to add value to our farm produces for we will be at a loss if we sell raw produces.
Msanga welcomes the irrigation idea rather than depending on unreliable rain given the current climatic changes. He says Ludewa, like is in many parts of the country is blessed with many water bodies which can be used for the purpose. He also welcomes the government’s idea of financing farmers and urges it to support all farmers regardless of their size.
Although the minister said the government has through its agricultural financing window at the Tanzania Investment Bank extended loans to farmers, Msanga has never heard of any one who has benefited from the money in his area. And many small-scale farmers who constitute the majority of the farming population are still in the dark on this.
Accordingf to the finace minister, a total of 81 loans worth 22.9bn/- were extended by March 2012. Oout of these, 42 loans were extended to SACCOS, 32 to companies, and 7 to micro finance institutions. Credits extended to microfinancing institutions and SACCOS benfited rural small farmers, according to the minister.
He said; “the government continued with the implementation of the Cooperative Reforms Programme in order to strengthen and empower cooperatives to expand financial services and reach out, in particular to rural areas.”
At the end of the day, all the government needs to do according to Dr. Gabriel is to ensure the budget improves the life of the common mwananchi. This is all that matters to them. What farmers need is to be able to produce, sell and get enough money to improve their lives.