If one were to judge by an extract from a recent article in “Links” magazine published by “Third World First” sent to us by a reader of the Bulletin, it would seem that Tanzania is facing something similar to the Groundnut Scheme but this time with wheat. The article is critical of a number of large-scale agri-business type food production projects underway in, for example, Mozambique, Mali and Senegal. About Tanzania, the author , Colin Hines, writes:
“In Tanzania a Canadian aided wheat scheme is causing even greater concern. Since it began in 1970, Canada has committed $44 million to the project with the hope that the Tanzanian Government will be able to run it independently in the foreseeable future. Yet the prospect of that is nil. In addition, $1.5 million was spent on equipment for each of the six farms in the Hanang district (totalling 60,000 acres).
“The land for the wheat schemes was taken from the Barabaig, a pastoral people who both occupied and grazed their cattle on the land. They have now been forced to overgraze on the surrounding land. The schemes themselves are far too intensive for the area, and a report on Agricultural and Livestock Production in Arusha Region noted with alarm that the technology being applied to these large scale fully mechanised operations is alarmingly similar to the technology used in western Canada which contributed to the catastrophic soil erosion (dust bowls) of the 1930s.
“The farms are laid out prairie style with no allowance for tropical downpours. Erosion is already severe as huge gullies cut through the fields – indeed £22,000 was spent on one farm trying to fill such a gully, without success. This catalogue of disasters might be excusable if the schemes were at least producing wheat on a comparable scale. In fact, Tanzania is now estimated to be producing less wheat than when the project began, and any prospects of even sustaining production without massive inputs are bleak.”
We asked the Canadian High Commission if they would like to comment. We received a telex in reply, extracts from which are as follows:
“ARTICLE BELITTLES OUTPUT OF WHEAT FARMS. CANADIAN-TANZANIAN WHEAT PROGRAM NOW AVERAGES APPROX 40,000 TONS OF WHEAT ANNUALLY, ENOUGH TO PRODUCE 180 MILLION LOAVES OF BREAD A YEAR. TOTAL ANNUAL PRODUCTION FROM THESE WHEAT FARMS HAS DOUBLED SINCE 1979. IN 1985 THEY PRODUCED 46,500 TONS Of WHEAT OR 75% OF TANZANIA’S DOMESTIC WHEAT PRODUCTION. ON AVERAGE TANZANIAN WHEAT FARMS HAVE PRODUCED AT LEVELS COMPARABLE TO WESTERN CANADA AND IN 1985 TANZANIAN WHEAT FARMS BETTERED PER ACRE YIELDS IN WESTERN CANADA DESPITE NOT USING FERTILIZER. WHILE TANZANIA AS A WHOLE IS PRODUCING LESS WHEAT THAN BEFORE, REASON IS LARGELY EMIGRATION Of EXPATRIATE WHEAT FARMERS. CANADIAN=TANZANIAN WHEAT PROGRAM HAS IN FACT COMPENSATED FOR DROPS IN PRODUCTION IN OTHER AREAS OF COUNTRY. MOREOVER, BEFORE, ONLY SUBSISTENCE FARMING CONTRIBUTING LITTLE TO TANZANIA’S AGGREGATE FOOD PRODUCTION EXISTED WHERE WHEAT FARMS ARE NOW. INCOMPARABLY MORE TANZANIANS ARE NOW BEING FED THROUGH THE WHEAT FARMS THAN WAS CASE WITH RELATIVELY FEW CATTLE THAT WERE PREVIOUSLY THERE AND WERE DISPLACED.
MISLEADING FOR ARTICLE TO SUBMIT THAT DISPLACEMENT Of BARABAIG HAS LED TO OVERGRAZING IN SURROUNDING AREAS. IRONIC THAT WHILE WESTERN FARMERS CRITICIZED FOR RAISING CATTLE WHERE GRAIN COULD BE GROWN, IN TANZANIA – WHERE NEED FOR FOOD MUCH MORE CRITICAL – TANZANIA/ CANADA CRITICIZED FOR GROWING GRAIN WHERE BARABAIG CATTLE ONCE GRAZED.
ARTICLE LAMBASTS MECHANIZED AGRIC AS INAPPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY BUT ONLY PRACTICAL WAY TO PRODUCE WHEAT IN THIS REGION Of TANZANIA IS THROUGH MECHANIZATION. OX-POWER SIMPLY COULD NOT PLOUGH AND PLANT ENOUGH ACRES IN THE SHORT SEASON TO MAKE IT WORTHWHILE.
ARTICLE UNFAIRLY IMPLIES THAT CANADA SOMEHOW IMPOSED WHEAT AND WHEAT PROJECT ON TANZANIA. IN FACT WHEAT HAS INCREASINGLY BEEN STAPLE FOOD SINCE 1940s. FARMS FIRST CONCEIVED AND DESIGNED BY TANZANIAN GOVERNMENT WHICH THEN EXPLICITLY ASKED FOR ASSISTANCE FROM CANADIAN GOVERNMENT. TANZANIAN GOVERNMENT PLACES HIGH PRIORITY ON SELF-SUFFICIENCY IN FOOD PRODUCTION, WITH TANZANIA-CANADA WHEAT PROGRAM AS ITS CENTREPIECE.
ARTICLE MAINTAINS THAT PROSPECT OF TANZANIAN GOVT BEING ABLE TO RUN WHEAT FARMS INDEPENDENTLY IS NIL. WHILE AT PRESENT THERE IS DECIDED CANADIAN PRESENCE ON FARMS, AFTER ONLY DECADE AND HALF OF CANADIAN ASSISTANCE TO TANZANIA ALL MANAGEMENT DECISIONS NOW BEING MADE BY TANZANIANS. PART OF REASON IS THAT TRAINING PROGRAM HAS GENERATED SIGNIFICANT CONTINGENT OF WELL-TRAINED TANZANIANS.
ARTICLE POSITS THAI ANY PROSPECT OF EVEN SUSTAINING PRODUCTION WITHOUT MASSIVE INPUTS FROM ABROAD ARE BLEAK, BUT HANANG FARM COMPLEX NOW PROFITABLE AND IN FINANCIAL POSITION TO PAY FOR OWN EQUIPMENT AND SPARE PARTS IN TANZANIAN SHILLINGS. FOREIGN EXCHANGE SHORTAGE IS REFLECTION OF MACRO ECONOMIC SITUATION IN COUNTRY. ARTICLE DOES NOT MENTION HUGE IMPACT OF WORSENING ECONOMIC CONDITIONS IN TANZANIA AND THROUGHOUT AFRICA IND THIRD WORLD, AFFECTING IN PARTICULAR COSTS OF INPUTS SUCH AS FUEL AND SPARE PARTS.
RE: ARTICLE’S CLAIMS ABOUT EROSION PROBLEM ON WHEAT FARMS, INITIAL PROBLEMS ALMOST INVITABLE WHEN PIONEERING AN AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT. HAVE SINCE MADE ADJUSTMENTS. WHEAT PROGRAMS RESEARCH COMPONENT NOW HAS SOIL MANAGEMENT SECTION. RESULT IS PROPER GRASS STRIPS IN CONTOUR HAVE BEEN INSTALLED ON TWO MOST-RECENTLY DEVELOPED FARMS, AND SIMILAR EROSION CONTROL FEATURES BEING ELABORATED FOR OLDER FARMS AS WELL. HEAVY EMPHASIS HAS ALWAYS BEEN PLACED ON DEVELOPMENT OF MINIMUM TILLAGE METHODS IN SUPPORT OF SOIL PROTECTION AND WATER CONSERVATION. FURTHER THRUST TOWARDS BETTER SOIL CONSERVATION PRACTICES BEING PROMOTED BY CROP MANAGEMENT SECTION. DEVOTING MORE AND MORE ATTENTION TO FINDING ALTERNATIVE CROPS IN ORDER TO EXPLORE ALTERNATIVES TO MONO-CROPPING WHEAT.
IN LIGHT OF THESE ADJUSTMENTS OBJECT TO ARTICLE MAKING ANALOGY BETWEEN TANZANIAN WHEAT FARMS AND WESTERN CANADA DUST BOWL OF 1930s. SUBSEQUENT HALF CENTURY HAS REVOLUTONIZED FARM PRACTICES AND THESE IMPROVED TECHNIQUES ARE BEING ADAPTED TO TANZANIA.”