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Backbone of economy still cries out for help

14th March 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

As is now well known, the ten pillars of the national agricultural modernisation programme popularly known as Kilimo Kwanza include those relating to the financing of its implementation and the strategic framework within which the initiative will be executed and managed.

They also closely relate to land acquisition and development, incentives to implementing agencies, industrialisation and deployment of science, technology and human resources as well as development of infrastructure.

All this is precisely with a view to modernising and commercialising agriculture, for long acknowledged as the backbone of Tanzania’s economy, ultimately promoting small, medium and large-scale producers through emphasis on productivity and tradability.

Admittedly, the going has not been at its smoothest both the sector generally and Kilimo Kwanza in particular, the latter having had to contend with a number of teething problems.

But the government is emphatic that there will be neither retreat nor surrender on this and, given the strategic importance of agriculture for the country and nation, this is indeed as it should be.

It has been profoundly heartening in recent days getting reports of a wide range of institutions – from various corners of the globe – expressing willingness to continue supporting Tanzania in fostering its agriculture to greater heights and higher levels of productivity.

But the recent decision to lower the price of power tillers sold by the economic wing of the National Service also speaks volumes about the government’s seriousness about doing all that it has resources for to help agriculture become a more stable and lucrative industry, partly thanks to affordable mechanisation.

This said, we should not close our eyes to the fact that the mechanisation we are talking about still essentially means adoption and deployment of equipment still well beyond the reach of most small farmers. Tragically, these form the bulk of the force behind the development of the sector in our country!

What this means is that we still need to devise strategies by and through which to ensure that the power tillers and other equipment or inputs needed to help our agriculture really ticks are more affordable to as many of our people as possible.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation warned many years ago that as large-scale commercial farming operations increase, they could displace small-scale farmers trigger higher levels of rural poverty and food insecurity.

Tanzania has not reached that stage yet, and we know the government is all out to guard against the development of such an ugly scenario.

But safeguarding the interests of our small farmers will only make enough meaning if we also help them engage more in and benefit more from agriculture, which is the main argument in favour of Kilimo Kwanza.

To show that we are really serious about modernising our agriculture, we need to fight as hard as we can to help it thrive – not merely survive.

One hopes all of us shall do so, and what better way of doing so than throwing our full weight behind Kilimo Kwanza by building on its positive aspects and appropriately dealing with the negative ones!

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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