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Jeshi la Kujenga Taifa poised to take lead in Kilimo Kwanza initiative

25th February 2011
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JKT recruits: The government should adequately finance JKT to enable it increase agricultural productivity and ensure the country has enough food all year round.

Seriousness is what Tanzania needs to transform its underdeveloped agricultural sector into a modern and viable commercial entity under the Kilimo Kwanza initiative if it really wants to liberate its 85 percent people depending on it for their livelihood, a Staff Writer reports

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Unlike other East African countries, Tanzania is endowed with idle abundant arable land as well as large water bodies currently underutilized. With a little bit of seriousness, it’s easy for the country to kick out poverty given all the available resources, including the potential human resource.

Speaking of manpower, Tanzania is lucky to have among others, Jeshi La Kujenga Taifa (JKT) through which youths completing secondary education or college volunteer to serve the nation while at the same time acquiring vocational skills.

Before 1994, joining the National Service (JKT) used to be compulsory. National Service was abolished in 1994 and re-introduced in 2001 where youths volunteered to join it.

I was among those who went through National Service when it was compulsory and I can testify to how productive we were as recruits and later as servicemen and women.

Apart from military training, we received training in crop and animal husbandry. We produced food in surplus and to date I still wonder why the country does not use JKT to curb food shortages in this country.

There is no need for people to go without food due to famine. JKT could offer a solution to this if well used. They need to be assisted financially since this is the major challenge they are facing.

Tanzania has all it takes to achieve a green revolution. Plans to have more JKT camps, at least one in every district as well as making it mandatory for youths completing secondary education to go through JKT like it used to be is a very big plus. We only need to make good use of this opportunity.

Like experts in the sector say, developing agriculture requires not only well drafted documents but also committed people to bring about change.

In my opinion, soldiers take the lead when it comes to discipline and commitment. Among the Kilimo Kwanza stakeholders is JKT which has its own assignments to fulfill. And it’s no doubt they will deliver if enabled.

Apart from increasing productivity to ensure people have enough food all year round, JKT could absorb the thousands of pupils and students graduating each year, most who do not secure a place in secondary school or high school and make them productive citizens of this country. At the same time, JKT could instill in them a spirit of self reliance so they could employ themselves when they go back to the community.

Through the National Service, Tanzania is envisaged to be a country whose youths are well nurtured so as a to constitute a productive part of the society which has a high sense of confidence, self discipline, patriotism, brotherhood, cooperation and responsibility. This is JKT’s vision.

And its mission is to equip Tanzanian youths with the requisite knowledge, skills and cultural values which will enable them to contribute positively to the socio-economic development as well as to the defense and security of their country.

The number of youths seeking to join JKT as volunteers every year has been overwhelming.

“The turn out is always big. We receive more youths than the capacity of our camps. It’s all due to a limited budget,” says Major Peter Lushika, the JKT Director of Agriculture and Livestock. Unfortunately, a big number of them are turned away due to financial constraints.

According to Major Lushika, most of those who volunteer to join JKT are primary and secondary school leavers, and few from university.

Statistics obtained from JKT show that between 2001 and 2010, a total of 26,210 youths volunteered to join JKT, of which 59.3 per cent secured employment thereafter and 40.7 percent went ahead to employ themselves.

The enrollment numbers speak for themselves:

1. A total of 2,491 joined JKT in 2001’s Operation Mkapa.

2. 2,613 in Operation Miaka 40 ya JKT (40 years of JKT) in 2003.

3. 2,794 in Operation Utandawazi (globalization) in 2004

4. 3,355 in Operation Jiajiri (employ yourself) in 2006.

5. In Operation Kasi Mpya (new pace) the same year, 2,454 youths joined JKT.

6. 3,905 youths joined the force in 2007 under Operation Maisha Bora (better life).

7. 4,184 in 2008’s Operation Uadilifu (integrity).

8. 4,414 in Operation Kilimo Kwanza (agriculture first) in 2009.

9. 4,732 in 2010’s Operation Uzalendo (patriotism).

While at JKT, these young men and women learn agriculture and animal husbandry, construction, tourism, driving, mechanics, tailoring, carpentry and business among others. They spend two years in JKT, out of which six months are spent for military training and get vocational skills training in the remaining 18 months.

According to Major Lushika, agriculture is the backbone of production activities at National Service and also when training JKT recruits.

“We put more emphasis on theory and practice. We have enough experts,” said Major Lushika. There is at least one graduate in agriculture and animal science in every brigade as well as diploma and certificate holders.

He says agricultural activities in national service deteriorated when they stopped receiving compulsory JKT recruits in 1994 and resumed in 2001 when National Service was re-introduced.

“When Kilimo Kwanza was introduced, we were assigned to produce high quality agricultural seeds in collaboration with the Agricultural Seed Agency. That year we produced 189 tonnes of cereals, vegetable and oil seeds,” says major Lushika. In 2009, JKT produced 486 tonnes of seeds.

“Drought, a shortage of agricultural inputs and equipment were a big challenge. In 2010, we decided to introduce irrigation in some of our farms. We started with farms in Chita camp in Kilombero District in Morogoro,” says Lushika.

This is a plus for youths joining JKT whether on voluntary or mandatory basis for they will acquire irrigation skills through this project, which they can apply in their lives in future.

This will help reduce unemployment and the number of youths flocking urban areas in search of employment. It could also reduce the number of crimes committed in urban areas as a result of joblessness.

If well used, JKT can be a place to sensitise young Tanzanians to have an interest in agriculture which has been neglected for a long time despite being the backbone of our economy.

Let’s be serious and take up the opportunity. Let’s use all the available resources this country has, the fertile idle land, the abundant under utilized water resources, the available labour force as well as the free of charge expertise offered by JKT.

A poverty free Tanzania is possible.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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