Food – Future of Agriculture Promising

17 May 2013

By Abdulwakil Saiboko

Food - Future of Agriculture Promising
Food – Future of Agriculture Promising

Food – A LONG time struggle to transform agriculture is bearing fruit, giving hope for a brighter future. That was the implication in President Jakaya Kikwete’s move when launching an agricultural research facility built by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

“Overcoming the many challenges facing African agriculture is a gigantic task that requires addressing many issues including developing adequate capacities for research in order to develop high yielding and disease-resistant seeds,” said president Kikwete.

The president added: “In 2006, the government of Tanzania developed a comprehensive 14-year Agricultural Sector Development Programme to overcome the challenges. The purpose is to increase agricultural productivity through more application of modern science and technology.”

He added that the government has given more attention to research and instituted measures to increase the involvement of the private sector and other stakeholders in agriculture development. “We are including other players as well besides government and development partners as sole agents for agriculture development.

I believe when this mix is properly attained other agriculture related sectors such as agro-processing, manufacturing and service industry will come into play and benefit accordingly,” he said. President Kikwete believes that such efforts will boost income of farmers and many other Tanzanians engaged in the agricultural sector will improve and so will their living standards.

He, however, admitted the fact that African governments are resource constrained as such they cannot allocate adequate resources in view of so many competing priorities. “Political will has never been wanting, but the competing needs in our respective countries are overwhelming.

It is difficult to choose which activity should get what. In this regard, the support of friends of Africa from the international community is needed to close the financing, technical and technological gap in agriculture research and development needs of Africa,” he said.

Against all odds, President Kikwete expressed his optimism that Africa is likely to succeed in her quest to transform agriculture and thereby attain food security, poverty reduction and prosperity.

“Positive signs are emerging for all to see. We should therefore build on the momentum and strengthen our collaboration with all stakeholders towards that end including this, all important International Institute of Tropical Agriculture,” he said, adding: “I believe this is the time to do it because there is awareness in Africa and growing global consensus to assist and support Africa to achieve this noble objective.”

He considered the investment by IITA in the science building and the good work being done by IITA, to be very opportune as about 70 to 80 per cent of the people in Africa and Tanzania in particular depend on agriculture for their livelihood. “In Tanzania we cherish the commendable job the Institute is doing in building the capacity of researchers and agriculture students.

We are also thankful for various activities that enabled our farmers to increase production of cassava by developing improved high-quality disease resistant varieties,” he said. He assured the IITA that the government will strengthen the working relations in the common pursuit to improve agriculture in the country and contribute more.

President Kikwete also expressed his distress that the very huge number of population in agriculture forms the bulk of the poor while many African countries are food stressed and currently facing decline in per capita food production. “All of these are a function of low productivity in our agriculture.

This signals an urgent need to revitalize agriculture research and to scale up the application of science and technology as well as agro-processing and agribusiness,” he said. He reminded of the fact that economic growth and sustainable development of most African countries depends on agriculture and that any initiatives aimed at improving agriculture productivity in Africa deserve the encouragement and support of all.

President Kikwete bragged of the increased government attention during his term of office, saying apart from his order for researchers not to retire due to shortage, some 263 researchers on agriculture have been trained. Mr President added that the government’s commitment to put aside one per cent of the total budget in the research activities remains and that limited resources was a major challenge.

“We had earlier put aside 30m US dollars and last year we committed 15m US dollars on the same and as we speak now the government is funding at least two research projects in all the research institutes a departure from traditional overdependence on donors,” he said.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food Security, Irrigation and Cooperatives, Mr Christopher Chiza said the country still faces a lot of challenges in the agriculture transformation. “The most outstanding challenge is to increase the budget allocation to 10 per cent of the national budget in line with the Maputo declaration and also increase research funding.

Currently, research funding is less than one per cent of the national budget,” he said. He added that lack of human resources and continuous retirement of scientists has greatly affected research in various domains, hailing President Kikwete for ordering researchers to remain in service after retirement.

“Another challenge is attracting young people to agriculture, science and research. We must find ways of making science more attractive to children and widen the base of science and math teaching,” he said. He added that investments in agricultural research and development will have a positive trickle down effect on the youths by way of generating improved technologies that could attract them to agriculture.

The IITA Goodwill Ambassador, Nigerian Former President Olusegun Obasanjo emphasised on the need to meet the Maputo declaration of setting aside 10 per cent of the budget in agriculture. “By 2050, Africa’s population is expected to almost double, bringing it to almost 2 billion people.

Trends show that the present African food production systems would be able to meet only 13 per cent of the continent’s need by that date,” he said. He called upon governments, donors and individuals to support IITA to smoothen the undertaking of its activities for the betterment of the continent. Tanzania Daily News

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