AGRICULTURE

by David Brewin

Politics and outdated livestock keeping
In a recent article by a (Tanzania) Guardian editor, views were expressed on the age-old clashes which occur between farmers and livestock keep­ers in Tanzania. This followed incidents in Kiteto district in October when four people were said to have been killed after a pastoralist was grazing his cattle on a neighbouring cassava farm.

Home Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe said it was high time the political class met and agreed amicably on a solution. The editor went on: “The sense of law among livestock keepers is basically religious. The clan head, who conducts sacrifices or orders others to do so, would be the person to issue orders; not someone else. If one of them is arrested they can storm the remand prison or give bribes. They have more money than the peasant farmers… The situation was easier when Tanzania’s population was much lower and there was plenty of land for livestock keepers….with most land now under one or other form of use and grasslands much fewer, owing to deforestation and poor rains, to expect that habits built up over millennia can be ended by discussion is a forlorn hope. The government has to think up ways to end the present mode of livestock keeping and not rely on the stakeholders to solve the problem themselves.”

GM Crop controversy continues
The controversy about the use of genetically modified crops continues all over Africa. Only in South Africa, Burkina Faso and the Sudan can they be cultivated legally. Yet in 28 countries around the world and on 11% of the arable land, the growing of such crops has become the norm. About 90% of the maize, cotton and soya beans grown in the USA are now genetically modified. From the 1960s to the 1990s, yields of rice and wheat in many parts of the world have doubled; the average consumer began to take in a third more calories; and the poverty rate was cut in half. When Norman Borlaug, the famous plant breeder, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 the citation read ‘More than any other person of this age he helped provide bread for a hungry world’.

Tanzania however still stands back, claiming that there are safety and environmental effects. Advocates of this view, quoted in the October issue of the National Geographic Magazine, say that expensive GM seeds represent a ‘costly input to a broken system’. Heavy-input agri­culture has no future: ‘We need something different. There are other ways to deter pests and increase yields that are more suitable’.

Horticultural exports booming
Horticultural exports from Tanzania, mainly of cut flowers, rose by 86% between January and June 2014 compared with the same time in 2013. Horticulture now claims to be the third source of foreign exchange after tourism and mining. The boom has been greatly assisted by Kenya’s action in lifting its ban on flowers and the levy on vegetable exports from Tanzania through Nairobi airport.

Illegal forest products
According to a study published by the Tanzania Natural Resources Forum (TNRF) and the East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS) the Kenya-Tanzania border is one of the most active transit routes for both legal and illegal movement of forest products. The Horohoro-Lunga border is said to be the main entry point for timber, charcoal and wood for carvings and some transporters are said to be falsifying documents, undervaluing their products or using unofficial routes to evade inspec­tion and taxation both in Kenya and Tanzania.

More fertilisers
By the end of 2015 a Norwegian firm Yara International (formerly Norsk Hydro) hopes to open a new $20 million 45,000 tonne fertiliser terminal as part of Tanzania’s Kilimo Kwanza project. This should help Tanzanian farmers to protect themselves from expensive imports. The project targets 350,000 hectares of land to be put under commercial production.

Blast fishing ‘getting out of control’
Blast fishing is illegal in Tanzania but still prevalent. Fishermen use locally obtainable fertiliser mixtures and small fuses to make explosives, which are then dropped overboard. The underwater shock waves stun the fish, rupturing their swim bladders so that they float to the surface and can then be easily swept in nets. There are fears that, unless this practice can be stopped, the artisanal fishing industry could collapse, more fishermen might be injured by the explosives and those fishermen caught by the police will continue to have to pay bribes to avoid going to prison. It is estimated by ‘Smart Fish’, a fisheries programme funded by the EU, that the profit made on each blast can be as high as $1,800.

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