A Call to Action: Mzee Pinda Urges Collaboration to Drive Tanzania’s Food Systems and Agriculture Forward

AGRA Tanzania’s 5-year strategy launch

By Elizabeth Shumbusho

Presidential Food and Agriculture Delivery Council Council Chair and Former Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, in his recent address as the guest of honour at the launch of AGRA Tanzania’s five-year strategic plan, took a moment to reflect on the pressing issue of poverty in rural Tanzania.

Despite the nation’s overall stability, he emphasised the need to confront and address the persistent poverty that afflicts many Tanzanians, especially those in rural areas. AGRA Tanzania’s 5-year strategy launch took place in Dodoma on 12 July 2023.

“Reflecting on our current state as a nation, we have made commendable strides in many areas. One significant achievement is the stability of our country, which is a testament to our relentless efforts,” said Prime Minister Pinda. However, he quickly pointed out that not all Tanzanians have benefitted equally from this stability.

In a moving speech that underscored the hidden depths of poverty in the country, the Prime Minister said, “We need to confront the reality that poverty among our citizens persists. This issue can often be overlooked, especially in urban environments. But if you visit the rural areas where most of our people reside, the stark reality of poverty is unmistakable.”

These stark realities he alluded to were met with a profound sense of urgency. Hon Pinda’s words made it clear t partnerships with organisations like AGRA are about boosting agricultural output and addressing these deep-seated rural poverty issues.

Pinda expressed his heartfelt gratitude to AGRA Tanzania during the launch of their new five-year strategic plan. His words underscored his strong bond with the organisation and his unwavering commitment to Tanzania’s agricultural development.

“I want to express my gratitude to the organiser of this meeting. Participating in it is a significant opportunity for me. AGRA, I extend my deepest thanks to you. I have a very positive history with AGRA from when I served in the government, especially during my tenure as Prime Minister. I know the organisation well,” Pinda said during his speech.

HON Pinda’s relationship with AGRA goes back to his earlier governmental roles, during which he worked closely with the organisation to advance Tanzania’s agricultural sector. His history with AGRA has given him a deep understanding of its mission and its crucial role in promoting sustainable agriculture in Africa.

“When I discovered that AGRA had devised a strategic plan to assist our country in improving food production and other systems, I felt compelled to get involved,” he added.

Mzee Pinda revealed his new role as the chairman of the newly formed Presidential Advisory Board on Food and Agriculture. This new role was bestowed upon him by President Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan at the launch of the AGRF 2023 Summit marking a significant step forward in the country’s commitment to addressing food and agriculture issues.

“It’s true that the Honorable President, Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan, has formed an advisory board on food and agriculture issues and has appointed me as the board’s chairman,” Pinda confirmed during his speech.

However, the retired Prime Minister also quickly clarified the nascent board stage. He said, “We have only recently been entrusted with this task and officially positioned last March. I won’t comment extensively on the board because we are still in the initial stages of defining our role and responsibilities.” His appointment to this role is significant due to his extensive experience and deep understanding of Tanzania’s agricultural sector

Mzee Pinda laid bare the realities of Tanzania’s journey to development, highlighting the victories and the ongoing struggles. He emphasised the urgent need to address the persistent poverty and understanding gaps hindering progress, particularly in the country’s agricultural sector.

“In spite of everything, we were informed in 2020 that our nation has reached the developing stage. This is a departure from previous years, marking us as a middle-income country. While this achievement might be encouraging, it’s vital that we keep sight of our ongoing struggle with poverty. In this regard, we still have significant work ahead,” Mzee Pinda said.

Pinda praised Tanzania’s educational strides, acknowledging that efforts to combat illiteracy have seen universities expand and talented scholars nurtured. However, he expressed concerns about a different kind of ignorance – the lack of understanding of why poverty still prevails and the failure to see the link between our food systems, health, and poverty.

“Some of us, even the highly educated, fail to understand how our food system influences our health. This lack of understanding has cost our government greatly,” he remarked.

Taking on his new role as the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Board on Food and Agriculture, he said he was committed to working with his colleagues and the Agriculture line ministries to identify the best course of action, question existing strategies, and bring about change.

The Prime Minister recognised the potential of Tanzania’s abundant arable land, around 44 million hectares, a resource that he believes needs to be used to its full capacity, resulting in the country being a competitor instead of leader among African nations. He called for a better understanding and leveraging of this resource to combat poverty and progress further in the country’s development journey.

He pointed out the need for coordinated efforts and collaboration within the country’s agricultural and industrial sectors to enhance the value of crop production.

“When others cite Ethiopia as a success story on the African continent, it pains me. What does Ethiopia have that Tanzania lacks?” Pinda questioned. “Thus, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, and our team decided that we need to coordinate our efforts. We need to foster collaboration with industries that will enhance the value of the crops we produce.”

Recognising AGRA’s strategy as a potential game-changer for Tanzania, Pinda said AGRA presented their strategy to him some years ago and was convinced that it could significantly help Tanzania.

As the newly appointed chairman of the Presidential Advisory Board on Food and Agriculture, Prime Minister Pinda is optimistic about the future of Tanzania’s agricultural sector. He revealed said Tanzania had set a strategic plan, setting the goal for agriculture and the economy to contribute 10% of the GDP by 2030.

“As a nation, we developed a strategic plan for 2030. We aim to grow agriculture and the economy until they contribute 10% of the GDP by 2030. It may seem ambitious, but considering our resources and people, I believe we can achieve it. We may not reach 100%, but we can attain 90% and guide our nation to a promising future,” Pinda declared.

In his speech at the AGRA Tanzania five-year strategic plan launch by calling for unity, determination, and a focus on effective land use and irrigation to eradicate poverty and transform Tanzanian agriculture.

“This meeting offers an excellent opportunity to deepen our understanding of the state of our country and the importance of using our land effectively. It will enable us to achieve our set goals in a short period of time,” said Pinda.

He highlighted the need to prioritise crops like rice, particularly in regions like Rukwa and Katavi. However, Pinda also pointed out the challenge faced with crops like wheat, despite having fertile lands in the north, calling for more attention and strategies to boost its production.

Reflecting on his recent visit to Israel, Pinda emphasised the potential of irrigation technologies, a critical success factor in Israel’s agriculture. He suggested, “We must prioritise irrigation. If we have the opportunity, we should send people to observe Israel’s irrigation system and its importance to agriculture.”

Furthermore, he acknowledged the crucial role of Extension Officers in providing practical education to farmers. He called for further investment in this area, urging, “We need to ensure that these officers reach the grassroots level to help every farmer increase productivity. AGRA, I request your assistance in facilitating this.”

Ending his speech with gratitude, Prime Minister Pinda thanked everyone present for their contributions and reiterated his commitment to eradicating poverty, stating, “Together, we are embarking on a journey to eradicate poverty, a mission we cannot accomplish without cooperation and unity.”

He called for a collective effort to work as a team to cultivate a prosperous Tanzania, acknowledging the challenges ahead but assuring his listeners that they will prevail with hard work, determination, and strong commitment.

“Let’s strive to work as a team to cultivate a prosperous Tanzania. We are not without challenges but will rise with hard work, determination, and a strong commitment. Thank you, everyone, for your attention,” he concluded.

***Addational information Anthony Muchoki