Lack of banking services in Lupa, Chunya District remains a big challenge to farmers’ progress in the area as they fail to save sustainably because they store all the crop sales money they get in their homes.
This remote part of Mbeya Region surrounded by thick evergreen forests that blanket expansive landscapes, depend on tobacco as the main cash crop and as their financial lifeline.
“We need to promote a saving culture that goes hand in hand with promotion of rural banking,” said Richard Andrew Sinamtwa, Tanzania Tobacco Leaf Company director for legal and corporate affairs, when donating 300 bags of cement and 300 pieces of corrugated iron sheets, worth 15m/- to residents for the construction of a dormitory at Kipalala Secondary School.
He noted that farmers have to travel all the way from Lupa to Chunya town to get banking services, adding that residents who are customers of CRDB Bank have to travel further up to Mbeya City for the services.
Driving from Lupa to Chunya town, a 100km stretch of rough road, takes on average of two to three hours. Mbeya on the other hand is 175km away.
He said there was a need to connect power supply services in Lupa, to open the way for banking services to be launched in the area.
Responding to the remarks, Chunya District Administrative Secretary Sosthenes Magoha said plans were underway to launch a community bank for Chunya residents, and a steering committee to oversee the project had been formed.
“We have discovered that you have a problem of lack of banks to deposit your money, and that is why most of the farmers’ lives don’t change compared to farmers in coffee producing areas despite getting a lot of money,” he said.
Magoha, who represented the District Commissioner, said some 850m/- will be raised as mandatory capital requirement, although in reality at least 2bn/- will be needed during the transition period as recommended by experts.
On the assistance, the DAS commended TLTC’s work, noting that it was timely because lack of dormitories was the biggest problem causing students in the district to fail miserably in their Form Four exams.
He noted that in the 2011 National Form Four examination results, over 500 representing 53 per cent of the candidates scored Division 0.
Magoha said: “A lot of students live very far from schools, with some coming from as far as 50 kms, as a result they have to rent rooms near the schools. They are not in a conducive studying environment and don’t study.”
He said officials and stakeholders have passed a unanimous decision requiring all the students in the district to live in dormitories.
According to Deputy District Education Officer, Jeras Shitindi, Chunya has 22 secondary schools, two of them being privately owned. Yet, he noted that there were ‘not more that 10 dormitories in all the government schools’.
“ There is a need to build more dormitories,” noted Shitindi, who also pointed out the dire housing situation in the schools, saying the district had a shortage of 252 teachers’ houses as there were only 42 houses.
The assistance has been handed over to the Chunya District Education Trust (CHUDET), which will oversee the construction of the dormitory. The charity organization is under Chunya District Council.
CHUDET Executive Secretary Juma Mbalamwezi said: “The school is faced with a big problem of truancy and student pregnancies. This is because students are forced to rent rooms and live among the villagers, exposing them to malpractices.”
The proposed dormitory will accommodate 48 students, Mbalamwezi noted, saying construction will start soon. He said residents had contributed 40 and 35 truckloads of sand and stones respectively, which are at the construction site.
According to TLTC’s Sinamtwa, the assistance was in rhyme with the firm’s motto in education ‘Kilimo Kwanza, Elimu Kabla’, which prioritises modernisation of agriculture while putting education as the prerequisite.
It is within this context that the firm has launched a pilot farm in Chunya as a sojourner to forming an exclusive training mechanism on tobacco issues. “We don’t have a specific tobacco college in the country,” he noted.
“We need to have a graduate system under which it is possible to gauge skills of both tobacco extension workers as well as farmers. Working with government a provision must be made for accreditation,” he said.
Lupa is located within Chunya’s tobacco zone, as classified under the ‘one district one cash crop initiative.’ Yet Sinamtwa noted that despite tobacco being the leading cash crop, it has not been discussed enough under the initiative.
Said Sinamtwa: “There are districts which depend on tobacco exclusively, yet the crop doesn’t feature in respective districts development plans in line with the ‘one district one crop concept’,” he said.”
He added: “Even in community-based meetings under the local government, nothing is discussed about tobacco. There is a need to conceive projects that support tobacco sector like the introduction of modern efficient barns, warehousing, etc.
According to Magoha, it has not been possible to classify Chunya as an exclusive tobacco belt under the ‘one district one cash crop concept.’
Consequently, it is sub-divided into three zones, featuring tobacco, sunflower and sesame.
Another issue which also surfaced during presentation ceremony was current reforms in tobacco farming. Sinamtwa noted that the reforms have separated the crop from inputs, thus adding more stakeholders in the tobacco sector.
“We at TLTC expect each of the stakeholders to play their core role effectively,” he said, mentioning lead stakeholders as banks, buyers, growers through the
Cooperative movement, government through the board and local governments.