Tanzania: The Promise of the National Lime Application Guidelines

By Brenda Ngatara

In Tanzania, agriculture forms the backbone of the economy, supporting the livelihoods of most of the population. However, soil acidity has long plagued productivity. The draft National Lime Application Guidelines, developed in early 2021 and refined through several revisions, represent a strategic intervention to mitigate this challenge. Though pending endorsement, these guidelines suggest a transformative future for agricultural practices across Tanzania.

The Journey of the Guidelines

The development of the National Lime Application Guidelines began in March 2021. Over the next two years, the guidelines underwent rigorous reviews by soil experts, language translators, and various stakeholders, including the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Breakthrough and Projections

A recent breakthrough occurred in March 2024 when SAGCOT secured a commitment from the acting Director of the Land Use Planning Department at the Ministry of Agriculture. This commitment has allowed preliminary Training of Trainers (ToTs) to proceed in target regions despite the lack of formal endorsement. This development indicates a potential shift towards more pragmatic approaches within the ministry, focusing on field validation over bureaucratic procedures.

SAGCOT Centre joined forces with the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) to host transformative workshops. These sessions, held from April 16th to 21st in Geita and from April 22nd to 24th, 2024, in Songwe, brought together extension officers and agro-dealers for comprehensive Training of Trainers (ToTs) workshops.

The workshops are crucial to the Guiding Acid Soil Management Investment in Africa (GAIA) initiative. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Harare, this project involves several key Tanzanian agricultural research stations, including TARI Mlingano, TARI Uyole, and TARI Ukiriguru. Their collective goal is to enhance agricultural productivity by managing acid soils more effectively.

During the sessions, participants were introduced to the Draft National Lime Application Guidelines, a pivotal resource poised to revolutionize how Tanzanian farmers manage soil acidity. The guidelines are designed to improve soil health and crop yields and ensure sustainable farming practices that can support the nation’s long-term food security.

“The training equipped the participants with essential skills and knowledge to help communities transform their farming practices,” shared Dr Sibaway Mwango, National Coordinator for Agricultural Natural Resources Management (TARI-Mlingano),. Applying lime according to the new guidelines can significantly improve soil fertility and increase agricultural output.

These workshops underscore the commitment of both the SAGCOT Centre and TARI to fostering a future where Tanzanian agriculture can thrive despite the challenges posed by soil acidity. By empowering local experts and agro-dealers, the GAIA initiative hopes to pave the way for a more prosperous agricultural sector in Tanzania.

Training Initiatives and Strategic Importance

The ToTs are more than just training sessions; they are strategic initiatives to create a cadre of knowledgeable champions within local communities. Thirty experts from both public and private sectors in the Geita and Songwe regions were intensively trained. These sessions included practical fieldwork, such as soil sampling, which is crucial for hands-on learning and effective guideline implementation.

The guidelines’ strategic importance extends beyond improving soil quality. They are integral to Tanzania’s larger goals of sustainable agricultural development, increased food security, and economic resilience. Effective management of soil acidity can lead to increased agricultural productivity, which in turn can boost economic growth and reduce poverty.

Challenges Ahead

While the initiative is promising, several challenges loom. Foremost is the need for formal endorsement of the guidelines. Without it, the scalability of the training and the broader application of the procedures may be limited. Additionally, the feedback from initial training sessions must be carefully analyzed to refine and adjust the guidelines, ensuring they are both scientifically sound and practically applicable.

Future Outlook

Looking ahead, the potential impact of the National Lime Application Guidelines on Tanzanian agriculture is significant. These guidelines could transform agricultural practices, improve soil health, and increase crop yields if endorsed and widely adopted. Moreover, TARI’s development of a small training manual will further support the dissemination of knowledge, ensuring that extension officers are well-equipped to assist farmers.

The continuity of such initiatives beyond the lifespan of current projects is crucial. Sustainable practices require ongoing support, monitoring, and adaptation based on evolving agricultural needs and environmental conditions. The draft National Lime Application Guidelines stand at the cusp of revolutionizing Tanzanian agriculture. While bureaucratic delays have tempered immediate progress, the proactive steps by organizations like SAGCOT and TARI highlight a forward-looking approach to agricultural challenges. With continued support and eventual formal endorsement, these guidelines promise to lay the foundation for a more productive and sustainable farming future in Tanzania.