Agricultural experts have stressed for revamping of sisal cultivation as cash crop for small scale farmers, emphasising that if harvested after three years, the farmer continues yielding for over three decades and that crops such as maize, beans, wheat, tomatoes and others could be cultivated within the same field.
With the advent of the national agricultural initiative, commonly known as Kilimo Kwanza (Agriculture First), a relatively large number of companies and institutions have emerged as major players in commercial agriculture in the country.
To the knowledge of most Tanzanians, the economy of the country heavily depends on the growth of agriculture- a sector which, to many stakeholders, may be regarded neglected for quite some time.
The sector accounts for half of the national income, while three quarters is attributed to exports.
In the sisal industry, for example, the sector has attracted investors for commercial agriculture, whereas small scale farmers in several parts of the country have shown considerable interest in sisal farming.
It is for such reason that at a recent local TV interview with the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kigoma North, Hon. Zitto Kabwe, expressed his intention to table a private motion in the ongoing parliamentary session to sensitize the country’s farmers and Tanzanians as a whole on the necessity to cultivate sisal as the leading cash crop.
During the morning hours interview, Hon. Kabwe, who decided to keep aside his political affiliation and call a spade a spade, said his views would centre on the necessity for a move for parliament to declare the year 2012, sisal cultivation year.
The Tanzania Sisal Board (TSB] and the Sisal Association Tanzania, (SAT), on behalf of all sisal industry stakeholders in the country, among them farmers and companies, have issued a statement hailing the legislator’s move.
Expressing the urgency for promotion of cultivation of sisal, the MP had said the crop was not vulnerable to vagaries of weather and fluctuations in global economic trends and conditions.
He said sisal crop was a redemption for small scale farmers, considering that it is harvested after three years, thereafter the farmer continues harvesting the crop for the next 20-30 years, adding that it is a crop which can be grown with other crops ,such as maize, beans, wheat, omatoes etc in the same acrage..
In addition to fibre production, the farmer will be able to benefit from the recent development whereby energy will be produced from sisal crop, saying “We Tanzanians can certainly not continue ignoring the industry,” he asserted.
The statement, jointly signed by Hamisi Mapinda, Director General Tanzania Sisal Board (TSB) and Frank Maro, Chairman of Sisal Association of Tanzania (SAT), said the MP’s resolve goes in tandem with the national agricultural strategy to involve wananchi in the cultivation of cash crops in a bid to alleviate poverty-common among the populace.
“Should Hon. Kabwe’s motion go through, a large population of farmers, in not only Tanga, but also Shinyanga, Mwanza and Mara regions and elsewhere in places where people have already shown interest in cultivation of sisal, would join hands and make the crop their major cash commodity,’said the statement.
The involvement of small scale farmers in the country in sisal growing, gives Tanzanians the opportunity to pursue commercial agriculture in line with the Kilimo Kwanza concept,” says the statement.
Small scale farming is in practice in an intensive manner in leading sisal growing countries in the world, such as Brazil and China. In Tanzania we can do the same and win the lost glory enjoyed in the good old days-the early 60’s’.
“In 1964, Tanzania was the leading sisal grower in the world, producing 230,000 tons. The industry was also the major foreign exchange earner for the country.”
According to TSB and SAT, world price for line fibre was now favourable, standing at above 1,000 US dollars per ton for grade (UG) fibre.
Reports available have it that use of sisal products have lately been on the rise on account of the fact that the crop now has many uses, including energy production, building materials, fertilizer, animal feed and automotive parts among others.
Other advantages of sisal growing are the entire use of the sisal stem which produces juice, which can be used to produce alcohol, inulin and several other pharmaceutical products, as compared to the past, when only 2 percent was used from the plant while 98 percent was discarded as waste at great cost, both financially and environmentally.
Sisal flourishes well in all weather conditions, that is, it is not affected by vagaries of weather, whether rain or drought, except water logging. It survives in marginal land, semi arid or arid areas.
In view of the intended private motion by Hon Kabwe, TSB, SAT and other sisal stakeholders, cordially join hands with the parliament and the government of Tanzania in deliberations and implementation of the motion, whose ultimate aim is to benefit the people of Tanzania as a whole,” concludes the statement.