Who would want to be a ‘barefoot peasant in dirty tattered clothes?’ Not me and am sure not you, so why are we asking our youth to do it? The answer is simple, we look at the millions that large farm owners rack up every year, we adore the trillions that our MPs tell us agriculture contributed to the GDP and we listen to foreign donors’ jive of agriculture being the solution to youth unemployment and economic prosperity.
Now, while there maybe no malice in all of the above observations but one thing that certainly misses is the reality of the farmer on the ground.
The reality is appalling, destitute and miserable. Farmers in Tanzania are not big pot bellied ranch owners as those of the US or wealthy bourgeoisies of the UK and Australia no, a farmer in Tanzania as already described is a poor peasant with little to no material belonging nor peace of mind. What can help change this reality, from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives?
There are several ways to realize such an ambitious goal and the first is for the government to keep its commitment to regionally agreed initiatives to bolster agriculture, the foremost being the Malabo declaration that was recently reaffirmed in Maputo; set at least 10 % of national budget for agriculture financing.
However, Tanzania, like many other African countries, despite their almost sole dependency on agriculture, is still to live up to this commitment.
Then there is the private sector and CSOs, whose joint or individual initiatives can bridge the gap left by government when it comes to improving the working and living conditions of our farmers who make up 80 per cent of the country. Consider the African Food Prize Award that was launched in Ghana recently during the 12th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Partnership Platform (CAADP PP).
The award, USD 100 000 is given annually to recognize individuals and institutions whose contributions help foster food security on the continent. Having such recognition for our farmers is vital to boost the sector and to recognise individual efforts.
This tells even the youth that we are urging to join the sector that the believe in what we are preaching and are willing to back it up. We should have a Tanzania Youth Farmers Award that recognises efforts all along the production, supply and value chain of agriculture products.
So from a youth with a hand hoe feeding his family in Lushoto to an ICT Application developer in Dar es Salaam who is connect the Lushoto farmer with markets in the city and all who are in between including transporters and storage facility owners; the award would recognize all innovative efforts geared at boosting the sector.
Because when winning ideas are replicated, they can help millions of smallholder farmers deliver a new era of sustainable food security and economic opportunity.