FEBRUARY 1, 2022
By Patty Magubira
The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
The Tanzania government is embarking on a national drive to pull the youth into agricultural sector which currently is mostly dominated by the elderly.
Newly appointed Minister for Agriculture Hussein Bashe says the docket will with effect from next month launch a countrywide campaign aimed at roping the youth into the sector.
Dabbed Building the Better Tomorrow, the campaign will target Tanzanians aged between 18 and 40 years who constitute over 50 per cent of the country’s population estimated at 60 million people.
“We will begin with setting aside Sh5 billion (over $2,173,900) for the campaign next financial year and ask development partners to join us,” Bashe says.
The money will be used for developing agricultural parks, surveying block farms of at least 50-hectare each, carrying out soil analyses, supplying the farms with water and putting up essential infrastructure, including irrigation schemes and all-weather roads.
“Youth with passion in agriculture will be identified and provided with the block farms and capital for them to produce crops and the government to link them up with markets for their produce,” the minister explains.
He attributes the failure of the agricultural sector to attract the youth to lack of sectoral legal framework, technology and access to land and markets.
While mining, wildllife and other sectors are equipped with laws to guide protection, financing, tax structure and contracts, among others, agriculture, which is touted as the backbone of the economy, lacks such a legal framework.
Bashe says a legal framework will protect agricultural land just as the wildlife land is, warning that a single leader might transform most of the potential farming land into human settlement blocks and deny Tanzanians of employment and the local authorities of sources of revenue.
He was addressing representatives of horticultural industry stakeholders from across the country who gathered in Arusha for their 15th Annual General Meeting the recently.
Bashe says the government will prepare the next year’s meeting in collaboration with the private sector to deliberate on a wide range of challenges facing the horticultural industry.
Officials from ministries of Agriculture and Finance, local authorities, Tanzania Revenue Authority, relevant parastatals and logistic experts will also be invited to the meeting.
Agriculture being science, technology and business, Bashe advised the horticultural industry to identify top 10 value chain crops, including grapes, to focus on.
The Building Better Tomorrow campaign will begin in Arusha with abandoned flower farms, he says, directing regional commissioner of the area John Mongela to continue with initial arrangements as the ministry liaises with the Finance docket to allow new investors to revive the farms.
“The farms cannot continue serving as criminals’ hideouts, youth groups or investors will be provided with them along with long-term leases,” the minister confirms.
Mongela pleaded with the minister to do all what it takes to ensure the use of the flower farms was not changed, but the farms were rather revived to restore thousands of lost jobs.
“Five months ago, the regional secretariat prepared a write-up for the flower farms and sent it to the ministry, unfortunately there is no feedback,” Mongela lamented as he assured the minister that new investors had already been identified.
Eight flower companies had over a decade ago closed shop following their failure to service loans from Tanzania Investment Bank and the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) amounting to Sh88.8 billion (about $204,240).
The farm owners, who borrowed the funds through the BoT Credit Guarantee Scheme between 2005 and 2007, are said to have fled the country after defaulting on the government-insured loans.
The farms were owned by Kiliflora — now under BoT receivership, Kombe Roses, Shira Flowers, Allua Flowers, Zanziflora, Finlays, Flamingo and Arusha Blooms Ltd.
The farms used to create jobs for 6,700 residents of the region, mostly women and youth, whose dependents, according to the 2012 Tanzania census, stands at 10 people each.
This is besides those indirectly linked to the horticulture value chains, including those employed by inputs dealers, packaging and logistics facilities as well as fuel stations.
According to Jacqueline Mkindi, the CEO of TAHA Group, a countrywide umbrella organisation for the horticultural industry, besides the lost employment, the closed farms deny the national coffers of $24 million a year in horticulture exports alone.
The government also loses taxes, Pay As You Earn, license and other fees, let alone painting a gloomy picture before potential investors.
The closure of the flower farms has compelled event management experts to import them from Kenya well before decration of venues for wedding, funeral and public ceremonies.
With an annual average growth rate of 21 per cent in 2019, horticulture is the fasted growing industry in the country’s entire agricultural sector.
Its contribution to exports increased from $24.8 million in 2016 to $779 million well before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the country in mid March 2020.
While the world economy plunged from the growth of 2.9 per cent in 2019 to negative growth of 3.3 per cent in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, the economies of developing countries, Tanzania included, decreased by 2.25, down from 3.6 per cent rate.
Tanzania was, however, able to sustain positive growth of 35.4 per cent in horticultural products during the period; thanks to increasing demand of its products, adherence to international standards, increasing productivity and production, and decreasing post-harvest lossesΩ