The motto: ‘Agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy’ has been here for so long that its significance has almost disappeared.
This slogan implies that we should direct serious efforts towards improving agricultural production, which employs the majority of the rural population.
What we have just stated was also hinted on by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, who recently used different words to highlight the same fact.
The Prime Minister’s concern over the ‘laissez faire’ approach by regional authorities in the drive to boost agricultural production, betrays only too well the reality that much as we talk about agriculture, some of us are also very good in doing as little as possible to attain the set goals.
Nevertheless, there could some light at the end of the tunnel. This week, President Kikwete addressed a national business conference which discussed issues exclusively related to agriculture.
The brainstorming meeting was a very good initial approach, because before you plan, you need to identify your goals, the problems that hinder the attainment of those goals, the alternative solutions that are needed, and what those solutions will achieve.
We are tempted to believe that now our country is heading towards the right direction as far as agricultural production is concerned.
The views that have been given by the business community, when merged with those of other stakeholders on the ground, could definitely help shape the country’s vision on agriculture.
One of the things that we have not been able to accomplish is the popular use of irrigation methods by our small-holder farmers.
It is a good thing for us to campaign, for example, for universal secondary education etc. However, a simultaneous campaign for widespread irrigation could compliment those efforts, because once people are educated, they will employ both their energy and skills and farming offers abundant opportunities.
We should not be ashamed to borrow a leaf from our Malawian neighbours, who have been able to turn around their agricultural industry within three years, to the envy of many African countries.
Our country is blessed with plenty of arable land, rivers, lakes, fertile valleys and reasonably significant amount of rain (provided it is harvested).
Who shall we blame if our country is hit by acute famine precisely because we have failed to utilize all the advantages that our country enjoys; that can make it the bread-basket of this part of Africa.
We are fond of reminding our readers of Mwalimu Nyerere’s famous statement: “We have to run while they walk.” Quite unfortunately, it appears that we are currently “sleeping while they walk.”
Complacency will cost us a lot. We have to wake up and utilize our God-given massive hinterland to the maximum.
Finally, we need to lubricate our system of imparting skills to our farmers, especially through the services of extension officers.
This is a group of people who have been neglected for so long that their morale is at its lowest. We need to remind our top leaders of this fact. Something needs to be done. Motivation is not a sin.
The timely provision of affordable farming inputs is another aspect that will facilitate the much-needed green revolution.