AGRICULTURE

by David Brewin

The prolonged drought
Although Tanzania may have suffered less than several neighbouring countries, the prolonged drought which has hit the East African region has caused serious problems for the agricultural industry.

Most of Tanzania has experienced inadequate rains at the end of last year and irrigation farming has suffered particularly badly. The Tanzania Meteorological Agency in (TMA) blames the situation on the effects of climate change which, have affected weather patterns across the globe.
Particularly affected are coffee and tea farmers. The drought induced by the La Niña weather phenomenon leading into the last quarter of last year delayed the flowering of coffee bushes. Maize and bean harvests are also threatened which have triggered food price increases.

This year’s drought is said to be the worst in the past 34 years. Tanzania is already receiving refugees from neighbouring countries.

Sugar
In what was intended to be a contribution to the planned expansion of the sugar industry in Tanzania from a production of 300,000 tons per annum at present to an eventual total of up to 2 million tons, the government set aside 10,000 hectares in Bagamoyo district for a sugar project to produce ethanol for export. This project attracted substantial investment from Sweden, the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation, the African Development Bank and others. However, many of the population in the area were not happy and organised protests and said that it was an example of “land grabbing”. The latest news is that the scheme has now collapsed following the ending of Swedish support.

Tanneries and leather factories
Following a meeting between presidents Magufuli of Tanzania and Abdel el Sisi of Egypt in Addis Ababa it was learned that the Tanzanian Minister for Trade and Industry, Charles Mwijage, would be turning to Egypt to tap into the technology needed to help revive its tanneries and leather factories. Tanzania is second in Africa, after Ethiopia, in the number of livestock it keeps. There are some 23 million cattle, 16 million goats, 7 million sheep and 2 million pigs. But the country imports large numbers of shoes from China and South-East Asia, some 4% of which are made from pure leather. The Minister said that in Tanzania thousands of tonnes of skins and hides are wasted due to poor handling. Tanzania has eight small and medium-sized leather factories operating below capacity, in collecting and processing raw hides and skins.

High Quality Coffee
A small company of coffee growers in North Yorkshire are in the process of creating a partnership between Britain and Tanzania in producing and selling speciality coffee which is of particularly high quality. The founder of the company, David Beatty was in Tanzania recently on a research trip which is expected to be followed by the importation of high quality coffee beans from Mbeya, Mbozi and Rungwe districts. The company aims to buy premium priced coffee beans through direct negotiation with the farmers. The aim is to ensure a fixed premium price for the farmers instead of leaving them to sell their product via auction into the commodity market. Quality demands a high price, and this is the best way that a farmer can directly benefit from the increasing demand for speciality coffee. “We set our sights on Tanzania in the hopes of finding a coffee which is a true reflection of the country. Visiting the country first-hand meant that we could inspect the crop, the harvesting and processing methods plus the environmental conditions, all of which impact on the quality of the beans. Due to its exclusivity, the new coffee will be distributed to only a select few retailers, one of which is a street coffee house in Middlesbrough. It is hoped to start serving the coffee towards the end of 2017. Thank you for sending this – Editor.

Fish farming
In Tanzania fish farming is still largely a small-scale rural initiative. It is characterised by small pond culture and contributes only 1.4% to GDP. There is very much greater potential.

Inland water covers about 6.5% of the total land area including the great Lakes – Lake Victoria, Tanganyika, and yes Nyasa/Malawi. The lakes are recognised as among 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world because they are home to hundreds of species of secluded Cichlid fish. These include around 30 species of tilapia, 11 of which are not found anywhere else in the world.

The Earlham Institute and Bangor University in the UK, as part of an international consortium of organisations, are working to characterise the genetics of tilapia species. The other institutions also involved are the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, WorldFish, the University of Dar es Salaam, Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro and the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute. The aim is to improve aquaculture and fish production while preserving Tanzania’s natural diversity and resources.

In an article in the East African, the Earlham Institute’s director of science Federica Di Parmer has pointed out that tilapia farming could become a potentially important area. Tilapia are particularly suitable for aquaculture because they can tolerate different environments and conditions. Their growth rates are also relatively fast and they have low input requirements. They are second only to Carp as the world’s most frequently farmed fish.

Digitising the agricultural sector
A strategic partnership agreement has been signed between Tanzania’s national micro-finance bank (NMB) and MasterCard to digitise the agricultural sector in the country. The partnership will see the role of eKilimo, a digital platform designed to introduce efficiency, security and transparency in the agricultural supply chain. This is expected to make transactions faster, safer, and easier for all including the farmer, the buyer and the agent. Farmers will sell produce and receive payments via a smart phone.

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