Implemented through the National Service, the drive which was launched here yesterday starts by construction of a massive irrigation scheme, setting up a 12,000-acre paddy plantation and an agro-processing factory.
The more than 4bn/- project is executed at the Chita Camp of the National Service Department of TPDF in Kilombero District, Morogoro Region, based on a vast irrigation scheme, already accomplished by at least 60 percent.
The project is set to start with the cultivation of 2,500 acres this farming season, with intention of annually expanding the cultivation acreage to reach 12,000 acres by 2025.
The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), General Venance Mabeyo laid the foundation stone for the capital agro-processing venture, underlining that the initiative was part of a series efforts by the National Service to boost the country’s food security base, and fast-tracking the pace of building an industrial economy.
He expressed the need for National Service to invest in diverse agricultural projects to contain existing shortages for crop based raw materials as well as boosting availability of staple food crops.
"Among others, the general vision for the establishment of the National Service was to complement government efforts to improve performance and service delivery in various sectors. You have enough land assets; make sure you research, innovate and come -up with equally useful agricultural projects," he directed
He said the National Service was a paramount institution geared to enable the timely development of an industrial economy.
"We must work hard to help the nation abandon a poor trend of importation of crop based raw materials," Gen. Mabeyo said, elaborating that we have grim statistics showing that the country is spending billions of shillings to import edible oil due to slow pace in the production of sunflower seeds. Records show that during 2019 around 413bn/- was spent for the purpose," he declared.
The TPDF commander was impressed by the work progress as he inspected it, pledging to release around 200m/- from general military funds to fast track key activities to speedily complete the wider irrigation scheme, rice processing plant and a warehouse.
Welcoming the CDF, the head of the National Service, Major General Charles Mbuge, said the project was in line with a chain of initiatives being undertaking by National Service to improve agriculture, livestock and fisheries countrywide.
He saluted the CDF for his support and efforts to ensure the project was implemented accordingly, emphasizing that the initiative will be accomplished in set time frame and quality standards.
Several income generating projects are being implemented in different National Service camps, with others in the pipeline or ready to take off, he affirmed.
'We're working round the clock to ensure appropriate utilization of the resources we have, including land, conscripts and officers to venture into wider projects for the benefit of the department and the country as a whole," he stated, praising the work attitude shown by conscripts at the camp in helping to attain work objectives.
Colonel Hassan Mabena, chairman of the strategic committee on agriculture, livestock and fisheries development, said the department has developed viable strategies to push for increased production in food and cash crops, with the focus being on maize, rice, beans and sunflower.
The value of the on-going paddy irrigation scheme was estimated at 12.6bn/-, but National Service was expecting to spend 4bn/- by working with indigenous experts from the Tanzania Irrigation Commission (TIC) and the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), in particular.
Colonel Mabena, also acting head of administration at the department, said that during the 2019/2020 season, the Ifakara- based camp cultivated 1,000 acres of paddy, but fetched low yields due to some challenges.
“The last season saw each acre producing only 10 sacks, but with the new project we're looking forward to start yielding between 25 and 30 sacks per acre,” he stated, noting that the future target was to attain 40 sacks per acre.
Visibly optimistic, he said that apart from ensuring National Service with abundant supplies, the ongoing project will play a vital role in imparting the farmers with best agronomic practices.
“Students from SUA and from other agro-related colleges will use the project to facilitate internship or field exercises, whereupon farmers from adjacent communities will be invited to learn recommended methods of rice cultivation,” he further noted.
The project has been designed to allow the crop to be grown in two seasons; each year, propelling vastly increased harvests.
“We’re currently proceeding with construction works to install water intakes at the three rivers where the scheme will receive it waters," he said.
"The waters will automatically be directed into several major tunnels, a professional drainage system which will see all farms irrigated accordingly," he specified.
The timely project is expected to curb the perennial challenge of flooding ravaging paddy farming in the remote area during heavy rains.
Already, National Service has established a major seed farm block at the area to germinate improved paddy seed varieties to cater for project demand, and marketing the surplus to farmers at friendly prices to push for wider production, he added.