The challenges of boosting Tanzania's rice production

15Dec 2016
The Guardian
The challenges of boosting Tanzania's rice production

BY 2050 the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion, 34 per cent higher than today. Nearly all of this population increase will occur in developing countries.

Urbanisation will continue at an accelerated pace and about 70 per cent of the world’s population will be urban (compared to 49 per cent today).

Income levels will be many multiples of what they are now. In order to feed this larger, more urban and richer population, food production (net of food used for biofuels) must increase by 70 per cent.

Annual cereal production will need to rise to about 3 billion tonnes from 2.1 billion today and annual meat production will need to rise by over 200 million tonnes to reach 470 million tonnes.

The report argues that the required increase in food production can be achieved if the necessary investment is undertaken and policies conducive to agricultural production are put in place.

But increasing production is not sufficient to achieve food security. It must be complemented by policies to enhance access by fighting poverty, especially in rural areas as well as effective safety net programmes.

Africa needs to boost food production to feed its growing population but in Tanzania there are fears that smallholders could lose out to bigger commercial farmers.

By the end of this century it is projected to be four times as many people to feed in Africa as there are now, and it is clear that farmers will need to increase their food production.

The speed of this population growth is visible in Tanzania's biggest city, Dar es Salaam, which has seen its population double from roughly two million two decades ago to four million today.

The G8's answer to this challenge has been to call in private sector agriculture firms, asking them to invest billions in Africa and kick-start an agricultural revolution.

For 50 years aid agencies have been trying to lift the smallholder from subsistence to surplus - and they've failed.

One case which is being held up as a model of private investment is the KPL farm in Kilombero District, central Tanzania.

It is one of East Africa's largest rice farms, covering 5,800 hectares of fertile river valley land.
Owned by the British firm, Agrica, its chief executive Carter Coleman, is convinced large-scale commercial investment in farming is essential for securing Africa's food supplies.
"People have this notion of just helping the smallholders," he says.

"But for 50 years aid agencies have been trying to lift the smallholder from subsistence to surplus - and they've failed."Instead he points to the 5,000 small-scale farmers he claims are being helped and supported by his farm.

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