Predominant subsistence farming in Tanzania is being cited as a major factor behind the agriculture sector’s failure to bring about economic empowerment to the people.
Dr Oswald Mashindano, a lecturer in the economics department of the University of Dar es Salaam, says current statistics show about 80 per cent of the population engages in farming.
This means there is high surplus of labour force, Mashindano told The Guardian in an exclusive interview over the weekend.
“Such statistics indicate that the country is not doing well…to avoid the labour force misuse there should be a small number of population in the sector.
“We also need to expand processing industry, have in place well organised agricultural market so that few people would be involved in the sector as is happening in developed countries,” he said.
According to Mashindano, most people engaged in agriculture are not fully occupied as they mainly work during the rainy season, explaining that this amounts to under utilisation of resources.
He advised authorities concerned to build the capacity of farmers to enable them to reach a broad market.
Mashindano, also Senior Research Associate at Economics and Social Research Foundation (ESRF, pointed out that although costly research work has been done in the country, the findings are rarely used.
And some research findings cannot be used owing to poor packaging and that sometimes policy makers are afraid of the changes that the findings would bring about, he said.
The economist added: “Statistics show that 70 percent of commodities that we purchase in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region are from South Africa while Tanzania sells only 10 percent of commodities to South Africa, which is high imbalance of trade.
“Therefore, to avoid such a situation we must employ our farmers throughout the year.”
Mashindano blamed agricultural institutions for being weak, saying this is one of the reasons farmers are unable to benefit from the sector.
“For example, in horticulture industry Tanzania is among 20 leading producers of vegetables but we do not fare well in marketing the produce,” he said.
Kenya is selling vegetables from Tanzania because the latter lacks the necessary facilities.
Besides the problem of subsistence farming, the country has failed to implement its various agricultural policies.
Mashindano said the problem is so critical that some research findings have remained on the shelves until they became outdated.
“This is sad because research work takes a lot of resources, therefore their (findings) non-utilisation is wastage,” he said, appealing to policy makers to find best ways to implant the findings.