Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperative Deputy Minister Christopher Chiza has said the government is committed to increasing food production by over 20 per cent through irrigation by 2015.
“We’re committed to ensuring the entire land, which is potential for irrigation, is utilised for the benefits of our people,” said Chiza recently, when he visited Arusha Technical College (ATC) to inspect the progress of construction and irrigation projects.
He noted that irrigation was the only option to increase food security at the time when rainfall was unpredictable.
According to the National Irrigation Master Plan (NIMP) of 2002, Tanzania has 29.4 million hectares suitable for irrigation farming.
However, until June last year, only 310,745 hectares (equivalent to 1 per cent) were under irrigation farming.
The minister called upon stakeholders to ensure irrigation engineers were produced to meet the government’s expectations.
Chiza challenged Arusha Technical College (ATC) to join the Tanzania National Committee on irrigation to increase the number of irrigation engineers.
He said Tanzania pulled out from the International Commission for Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) but it was discovered that it was wrong hence it had to come up with the committee.
He explained that the government reaffirmed that by 2015 over 20 per cent of food would be produced from irrigation, calling for other stakeholders including ATC to start producing engineering experts.
Engineering, Construction and Irrigation head Daud Mtavanga said his college was determined to produce more engineering experts at technician level.
He noted that a survey had shown that Tanzania had a shortage of 263 construction and irrigation engineers and 1,315 technicians.
According to the survey by 2020 Tanzania would be in need of 1,659 irrigation engineers as well as 8,295 technicians.
Earlier, acting college principal Dr Masoud Senzia said the college had secured 150 acres in Oljoro area, whereby students would be trained practically, saying the idea was meant to put it into practice.
“We’ll be training our students practical studies and we believe that through this endeavour more engineers will be produced and, hence, boost agriculture in the country. We’ll start producing a reasonable number of irrigation engineers by next year,” he said.
Civil and irrigation engineering is among the three new courses which will soon be introduced under short-term expansion plans of the Arusha-based college.
It is estimated that over a half of the 44 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture in Tanzania were suitable for irrigation farming but only one per cent was being cultivated through irrigation.
He added that irrigation agriculture was about two to three per cent more productive than rain-fed agriculture.
According to UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) figures, 80 per cent of food demand in the world will be derived from irrigation.
FAO statistics show that 17 per cent of irrigated farmland in the world meets about 40 per cent of food requirements.
ATC was established in 1978 through the technical and financial support from Germany.
Its status changed in 2007 when it was elevated to an autonomous college with accreditation to the National Council for Technical Education (NACTE).
It is the only college under the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.
Tanzania will need at least 1,659 additional civil and irrigation engineers in the next 10 years, a recent survey has shown.
Currently, the country is short of 263 engineers in the two sub-disciplines.
But the demand for additional engineers is likely to reach nearly 2,000 by 2020, indicated a study by the ATC.