Tanzania-Dutch investment in potatoes should be inspiration

22Jun 2017
Editor
The Guardian
Tanzania-Dutch investment in potatoes should be inspiration

News that a group of nine companies that hold a significant stake in the potato sub-sector are finalising plans to establish an Irish potato centre in Mbeya is sobering and should provide impetus for increased investment in the agriculture sector.

 

The USD4m/- project, which is being co-financed by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, comes at a time when consumption of Irish potatoes in the country is on the rise. The involvement of the nine companies - some of which specialise in seed potato production and supply of cooling systems - is sure to create stability in the crop’s value chain.

For a long time now Mbeya and Iringa regions, which are the country’s major producers of potatoes, have failed to capitalise on the crop’s full potential and the ready market due to various challenges. Most of the farmers, for instance, have been grappling with how to get their crop to a bigger market.

However, thanks to the joint initiative between the governments of Tanzania and the Netherlands, the latter being a leader in potato production in the world, the project will inject new life into the agriculture sector in this key region. We hail this partnership and hope that this project will boost research and training that have been lacking among local farmers. We also have no doubt that it will build skills among farmers and encourage technology exchange between the investors and the local communities.

If managed well, this initiative will create jobs, improve production standards by introducing into the country quality seeds, pesticides, fertilizers and other inputs.  It will also create a ready market as well as lead to the improvement of infrastructure and other social amenities.

It is disappointing that a region that has the potential to produce 30 tonnes of potatoes per hectare manages to yield a meagre 7-8 tonnes on the same piece of land.

As a media house, we are rooting for this initiative to succeed and hope that it will inspire other subsectors in agriculture to raise their standards.  Even though it is the pillar of the economy and holds a monumental economic potential for the country, the agro-sector is massively underperforming. 

For a country that proudly owns over 44million hectares of arable land, it is a shame that only 33 per cent of it is cultivated. Why is it that a sector which contributes close to 30 per cent of the GDP, by far the largest, is treated with scorn? Imagine what the country could achieve if it decided to put to use even 60 per cent of its arable land.

There is no reason why able-bodied Tanzanians should delegate farming to elderly people. Smart agriculture is the easiest solution to poverty. 

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