Control of urban horticulture not our job, Agriculture ministry says

08Feb 2016
Our Reporter
The Guardian
Control of urban horticulture not our job, Agriculture ministry says

THE Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries has distanced itself from the role of controlling farming in urban areas, following revelation that vegetable growers irrigate their gardens with water containing hazardous chemicals from homes and factories.

Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mwigulu Nchemba

The National Environment Management Council (NEMC), Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) and municipal authorities have also separately told The Guardian that it was not their mandate to regulate such activities. Agriculture ministry’s spokesperson Richard Kasuga told The Guardian last week that the government could not take action against farmers growing vegetables in polluted environs without findings of studies to prove that their produce were not fit for human consumption.Kasuga said the ministry was not responsible for conducting laboratory analysis on vegetables cultivated in contaminated areas and urged institutions with such findings to submit them to the government for action. “It is city fathers who are responsible for controlling vegetable farming in polluted environments because city planners have allocated special areas for peri-urban agriculture,” he said and added:“Peri-urban agriculture is permited  because it supports supply of food to the urban population and that’s why there are areas allocated for farming activities in towns.”  Kasuga, however, noted that farmers who cultivated vegetables in areas which have not been designated for such activities, and using polluted water in the process, were invaders like those conducting business or From Page 1building houses in restricted areas. But according to Kinondoni municipal officials, the Dar es Salaam City Master Plan of 1976 designates only one area for farming activities within the municipality - Mpiji valley, which runs along the borders with Kibaha and Bagamoyo districts in the Coast Region.  All other farming activities in the city are conducted on either private land that the municipal authorities cannot interfere with, or open spaces. On Wednesday, this paper reported that farmers in the city had confessed to using water believed to be highly polluted to irrigate their vegetable gardens. The farmers claimed they did so because they did not have access to clean water.  According to National Environment Management Council (NEC) director general Bonaventure Baya, the council is not directly responsible for overseeing farming activities conducted in polluted environments. It is only mandated to control the use of restricted land such as river banks, water sources or open spaces which may affect the environment. “NEMC intervenes only on issues of broader environmental concern,” Baya said. “We can also get involved if activities conducted in open spaces are not environment friendly,” he added. He, however, acknowledged that growing crops like vegetables in unhealthy surroundings, as city-based farmers were doing, was not safe and rendered such crops unfit for human consumption. Not only do vegetables irrigated with sewerage and waste water pose health risks, but also those cultivated along highways which are exposed to contaminated dust and vehicle exhaust fumes, Baya added.Last week, Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) manager responsible for food risk analysis Candida Shirima described vegetable safety as a cross-cutting issue involving various sectors such as health, agriculture and environment.  For example, she said, educating farmers on the dangers of cultivating vegetables in contaminated environments is an agricultural sector task, while ensuring the proper disposal of liquid waste from industries and households is the duty of environmental sector stakeholders.   Shirima noted that as part of its regulatory functions, TFDA monitors the safety of vegetable produce in order to protect public health.  “We monitor pesticide residues and heavy metals contamination in vegetables by collecting samples and conducting laboratory analyses, and we use the findings to sensitise the public to avoid bad produce,” she explained.