Let us pant drought resistant food crops

01Jul 2016
The Guardian
Let us pant drought resistant food crops

IT has been customary for leaders, particularly politicians, to urge people to plant drought resistant crops whenever rains fail. We are saying it has been customary because this tradition has been in practice for years now.

Unfortunately this tradition does not just end there. To accomplish its logic in the cycle of poverty, it is far too often that in seasons when there are enough rains, people tend to forget about planting drought resistant crops as if hunger will never come again.

This is what is happening in Mwanga, Kilimanjaro Region, one of the country’s districts known for its barrenness, unreliable rainfall, dry winds and choking heat sun, but which despite all these natural attributes, people go-food begging almost every year.

Forgetful of these attributes, the district council chairperson Theresia Msuya came out this week saying authorities have made it mandatory for each resident to cultivate an acre of sorghum to render the area free from perennial hunger.

“We have passed a bylaw that compels people in the district to at least grow one acre of sorghum,’ she said, adding that the move will make people be assured of food security as well as encourage youth to venture into farming.

Mwanga District is not alone. After learning that rains have failed in some parts this year, leaders in those regions and districts embarked on a similar late wakeup call to farmers to embark on growing drought resistant crops.

But the question is how pertinent are these ‘customary’ calls in addressing the real challenges of the day facing our society?

The reality is that our leaders are limiting the people’s horizon to use their full resource potentials through their non-focused visions and half baked guidance.

Take, for example, Mwanga District where the call was made this week. The rains have already gone out of kilter and not even a single seed of sorghum, if planted, would survive.

But that put aside, the district has various other resource potentials – enough sunlight throughout the year, sweeping winds, plenty of underground water and fertile soils with irrigation.

Besides it has big water sources such as Nyumba ya Mungu dam, Lake Jipe and Pangani River. All these, if well utilised could make the district much more productive than it is thought.

By digging enough wind-operated wells and utilising well the waters available, the residents can turn the district into one of the most horticultural crop exporters the Eastern Africa region.

The country’s natural endowments are a thing that need little mention because they have been documented in various cites. Suffice it to say that Tanzania is the only country in the world with all global climatic conditions enveloped in one country.

No other world country has such geographical attributes. If you are not sure about this revisit your Standard Five geographical studies.

The truth is that with nine massive water valleys, seven continent’s biggest water basins and the ocean on the lateral, is there really a reason to complain about rainfall failures?

So what is needed? The point is for political leaders and the rest of the populace to come up with a new way of managing agriculture and we should change the matrix of development.

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