Sisal growing, until recently a monopoly of coastal regions of Tanzania, particularly Tanga, Morogoro and Coast regions, is now turning into a universal occupation as far as the crop is concerned.
The plant, a drought resistant cash crop, is grown by almost every household in Lake Zone regions as hedge to protect destruction of farms by animals.
It is from mature sisal that poles are harvested for use in house building while fibres extracted manually from sisal leaves, are utilized in both house building and other household uses.
“After identifying vast potentials available in Lake Zone in respect of sisal growing, the government decided to develop the industry and make it a sustainable commercial crop,” according to Hamisi Mapinda, Tanzania Sisal Board (TSB) director general.
Presently, says Mapinda, TSB has wound up preparations for establishment of a project aimed at commercializing sisal growing in Shinyanga, Mwanza and Mara regions as part of implementation of a feasibility study done in 2006 by FINTECS Consultants under the sponsorship of Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA).
TSB has prepared a 10 year Crop Development Plan – a 2010 Election Manifesto -MKUKUTA II for the purpose of promoting production and productivity in the sisal industry – hence reduction of poverty and ensuring food security.
Under the proposed plan, to be unveiled soon, small scale farming is set to expand.
“The plan envisages to increase participation of small holder and out grower farmers in the industry from the current 419 households in 2010 to 4,440 households at the end of the development plan so as to improve farmers income and alleviate rural poverty,” revealed Mapinda recently.
He said also included in the plan are sisal small scale farmers operating under sisal small holders and outgrowers scheme (SISO) who are implementers due to their significant contribution to the total performance of the industry in terms of production ( 9 percent) planting (19 percent) and 11 percent (2010 statistical data).
“The proposed plan also considers involving other new families in the sisal business, both individually and others in groups, reported to develop interest in various parts of Muheza, Korogwe, Mkinga and Lushoto districts,” according to the TSB boss.
“The ultimate aim is to have 3,000 households with 5 hectares each in ten yeas.”
During the plan, said Mapinda, one of the few sisal experts who is said to have brought about changes towards revamping the sisal industry, companies that use outgrowers system would be encouraged to develop.
‘It is government’s intention to encourage companies which use sisal outgrowers system to consolidate and share their experiences with other companies, in respect of problems and prospects of integrating outgrowers system and revive sisal growing in Lake Zone- Mara, Mwanza and Shinyanga regions through International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), BADEA and other organizations.’
According to Mapinda, TSB would solicit funds from donors to enable the smallholders/outgrower farmers to be financially capable in preparation of land and maintaining sisal for the initial period of three years before harvesting.
Presently, he said the country enjoys 7 percent market share which TSB envisages raising to 39 percent within the Plan period.
It is envisaged that in execution of the Plan, major prominence will be in crop development. In every year, 10 percent of the total fallow land will be put under sisal and maintenance of existing sisal land,” according to the ambitious Plan.
The sisal industry, through Tanga based sisal marketing and processing company-Katani Ltd, entered into agreement with NSSF, the country’s largest security fund whereby the fund disbursed a massive USD 10 million loan for development of the sisal crop.