By Anthony Muchoki
The Minister of Agriculture, Hon Hussein Bashe, has taken a definitive stance as Tanzania embarks on a transformative journey towards advanced and efficient commercial farming practices. Emphasizing the government’s strategy for inclusive growth and sustainable development, Bashe has spearheaded the ‘Empowering Our Own’ initiative, focusing on bolstering citizens and local businesses and ensuring their active participation in the nation’s agricultural evolution.
In his commitment to reshaping Tanzania’s agricultural sector, Minister Bashe stated, “Our goal is to develop a sustainable and competitive agricultural sector that fosters an inclusive economy. As we progress towards commercial farming, inclusivity is essential. We are steadfast in our resolve to include smallholder farmers in our strategic plans, thereby enhancing their livelihoods and contributing to the nation’s journey towards sustainable, green growth.”
He was speaking on December 18, 2023, at Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture’s local investors’ conference in Dar es Salaam, a major turning point in the agricultural development of this leading East African food producer. Set against the backdrop of the Serena Hotel, the conference, themed “Empowering Our Own,” convened over 200 local investors, government representatives, and agricultural experts. This gathering underscored Tanzania’s commitment to fostering a robust, sustainable agricultural sector through an infusion of local expertise and capital, while not sidelining global investors.
The Tanzanian government, under the leadership of President Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, has taken a huge steps in boosting the agricultural sector by significantly increasing the budget to 970 billion Tanzanian Shillings for the fiscal year 2023/24. This move signals a strong commitment to transforming the country’s agricultural landscape, with a dual focus on meeting domestic food needs and making a mark in the global agricultural market. With the global population projected to reach two billion by 2050, Tanzania aims to position itself as a key player in addressing the impending global food crisis through sustainable agricultural practices.
Agriculture Minister Hon. Hussein Bashe provided a comprehensive overview of the current state of agriculture in Tanzania. Highlighting the predominance of smallholder farmers, who constitute 82% of the farming community and typically manage an average of 2.5 hectares each, he underscored the necessity for a paradigm shift in agricultural practices. The minister emphasized the need for these farmers to transition from subsistence to commercial farming, a move critical for enhancing productivity and ensuring economic sustainability.
In addition to addressing the immediate needs of smallholder farmers, Minister Bashe also touched upon the crucial role of large-scale farming, which accounts for 18% of Tanzania’s agricultural sector. He advocated for a balanced approach that supports both small and large-scale farming, fostering an inclusive and robust agricultural ecosystem.
Reflecting on the historical trajectory of the agricultural sector from 1970 to 2020, the minister pointed out the various policy and economic shifts that have shaped its current state. To achieve the ambitious growth target of 7.1% in 2023, he highlighted the need for significant capital and strategic investments. The government’s approach focuses on creating efficient systems to enhance business operations in the agricultural sector, thereby addressing the challenges of poverty due to low productivity and setting the stage for economic growth.
The conference emphasized the pivotal role of local businesses in the transformation of Tanzania’s agricultural sector. Minister Bashe called on Tanzanian entrepreneurs to take advantage of the numerous opportunities in agriculture, such as value-added production, expansion into large-scale farming, and the provision of related services. This strategy is geared towards building a resilient agricultural sector that can sustain the country’s economic growth and contribute significantly to the global food market.
Adding to the discussion, Ministers Prof. Kitila Mkumbo (Investment and Planning) and Dr. Mwigulu Lameck Nchemba (Finance) reinforced the need to enhance the value chain of agricultural products. They pointed out that increasing domestic production and reducing import dependency would not only conserve foreign exchange but also boost exports. This strategy is in line with President Hassan’s vision of breaking the poverty cycle and achieving economic self-reliance.
PS Gerald Mweli “Empowering Our Own” Will Strengthen Tanzania’s Agricultural Sector
At the outset of the meeting, Mr. Gerald Mweli, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, shed light on Tanzania’s strategic focus: “Empowering Our Own.” This initiative centers on reinforcing and attracting local agricultural investors, while also maintaining engagement with international investors. Mweli’s address underscored Tanzania’s dedication to cultivating a locally-driven agricultural economy.
Tanzania’s unwavering commitment to empowering local players in the agricultural sector was highlighted by Mr. Mweli at the Internal Investors’ Meeting in the Agriculture Sector. “Our goal is to nurture their growth and enhance their operational capabilities,” he stated, emphasizing the nation’s dedication. This meeting, held on December 18, 2023, at the Serena Hotel in Dar es Salaam, brought together pivotal stakeholders from the agricultural sector.
Mr. Mweli outlined the government’s strategies and goals under President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s capable leadership, noting significant progress in the Ministry of Agriculture. This progress involved establishing robust systems to prioritize practical aspects of agriculture, moving beyond mere policy.
The two primary objectives, as Mr. Mweli pointed out, were: firstly, to establish a strong foundational base for agriculture as a practical priority in Tanzania; and secondly, to publicize and promote a wide range of agricultural opportunities both within and beyond the country’s borders.
Moreover, he emphasized the need to showcase the extensive agricultural opportunities available within and outside Tanzania. “This ambitious strategy underscores the government’s commitment to placing agriculture at the forefront of both national and international arenas,” he added.
Closing the Local Investor Gap
A significant revelation from the conference was the insufficient local involvement in the agricultural sector. Mr. Mweli stressed, “Our focus isn’t limited to individual Tanzanian citizens. We’re also dedicated to integrating companies that are currently operational in Tanzania and are actively involved in agriculture.” This inclusive approach is designed to engage both individual farmers and local businesses, thereby creating a holistic framework for agricultural progression.
Enhancing Local Stakeholder Capacity
Tanzania’s commitment to bolstering the presence and influence of local entities in the agricultural sector is profound. “Our mission is to foster their growth and strengthen their operational capabilities,” Mr. Mweli affirmed. Such empowerment is essential for cultivating a self-sufficient and sustainable agricultural environment within Tanzania.
A crucial aspect of this campaign involves prioritizing existing stakeholders, ensuring their continued development while attracting private sector investment, both domestically and internationally. The government’s proactive efforts in creating a supportive environment for agricultural ventures are poised to draw significant interest from private investors, fueling growth and efficiency in the sector.
The conference also addressed the challenges facing the agricultural sector, including issues related to land use, irrigation, access to finance, and the integration of technology. Experts emphasized the importance of adopting modern farming techniques and leveraging technological advancements to improve crop yields and reduce losses. Discussions revolved around the need for sustainable farming practices that not only increase productivity but also protect the environment and biodiversity.
In addition to technological advancements, the conference highlighted the significance of agricultural education and training. Developing a skilled workforce equipped with modern agricultural knowledge and techniques is essential for the sector’s growth. The importance of research and development in agriculture was also emphasized, particularly in developing new crop varieties that are resilient to climate change and pests.
The role of women and youth in agriculture was another key focus area. Empowering these groups through targeted programs and policies was seen as crucial for the sector’s growth. Initiatives to enhance their participation in agriculture, including access to land, finance, and training, were discussed as vital components of the agricultural transformation strategy.
The conference had a unified vision of transforming Tanzania’s agricultural sector into a modern, productive, and sustainable industry. The government’s commitment, coupled with the active participation of local investors and the farming community, is set to propel Tanzania towards achieving self-sufficiency in food production and establishing itself as a formidable player in the global agricultural market. This strategic shift is expected to not only fortify Tanzania’s food security but also contribute significantly to its overall economic development, creating a model for other nations to follow in agricultural transformation.
Tanzania is at a pivotal moment in its agricultural history. The government’s strategic focus on empowering local investors and smallholder farmers, coupled with a commitment to sustainable, value-added agricultural practices, is poised to transform the country into a leader in the global agricultural arena. This transformation is not merely about achieving self-sufficiency in food production but also about driving economic growth, reducing poverty, and ensuring a prosperous future for Tanzanians.
“Empowering Our Own,” contingent upon its successful implementation, signifies a pivotal phase in Tanzania’s agricultural evolution. It marks a shift towards enhanced local participation and international collaboration. Through these concerted efforts, the Ministry of Agriculture aims to transform Tanzania into a dynamic center for agricultural innovation and economic prosperity.
The “Empowering Our Own” initiative is poised to amplify local investment in agriculture, underscoring its importance for national development and spurring greater involvement from local investors. This strategy seeks to increase engagement from both individual and corporate investors within Tanzania while accommodating international stakeholders. It signifies a major shift towards boosting local involvement in a sector traditionally influenced by external entities, particularly in the trading and processing segments of the food systems.