Agriculture is the backbone of the Tanzanian economy, providing jobs for over 70 percent of the population and accounting for 25 percent of GDP and 34 percent of export earnings, the government says.
At a busy intersection in Tanzania's largest commercial city, farmer-turned-hawker Pascal Kipeta runs a wooden stall offering a wide range of Chinese products to motorists, while keeping an eye open for city guards who might seize his merchandise.
"It is a very tough job. I have to be alert all the time to avoid being hit by the speeding cars and also to ensure that my things are not taken by the askaris, for it is illegal to conduct business here,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Kipeta, 39, came to Dar es Salaam in 2011 to seek a new life after repeated crop failures caused by recurring drought. He is one of thousands of people who have abandoned farming and streamed into Dar es Salaam, one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities, but now find it hard to make an alternative living.
Every day, he wakes up early in his rented room and rushes to the Kariakoo area to get his goods from wholesalers, keeping 10 percent of the profit on what he sells.
"I had a lot of expectations when I first came here but all the dreams melted away. Worse still, life is getting tougher and tougher,” he lamented.
But help may be at hand for Kipeta and many others like him.
The government, in a bid to revive the economically vital but ailing farming sector and stem the rush of rural people to the cities, has launched an agriculture bank to train farmers in modern techniques and help them needed loans.
The Tanzania Agriculture Development Bank (TADB) wants to strengthen growth in agriculture by helping farmers obtain improved seeds and fertilisers, access modern technology and learn better techniques to cope with the impact of climate change.
Agriculture is the backbone of Tanzania’s economy, providing jobs for over 70 percent of the population and accounting for 25 percent of GDP and 34 percent of export earnings, the government says.
PROBLEMS GETTING LOANS
The central bank says that, at present, farmers find it hard to get loans from commercial banks because loan officers believe agriculture is not viable and farmers will be unable to repay their loans.
The Tanzania Bankers Association said that the agricultural sector does not at present generate sufficient income to repay loans, and that there is no efficient mechanism to enforce contracts between lenders and farmers.
Speaking at the agricultural development bank’s launch, President Jakaya Kikwete said the government would invest 800 billion shillings ($380 million) in the next eight years to provide loans to farmers and help them get modern farming implements to boost productivity and improve their lives.
"We are deeply committed to addressing various challenges that have been retarding agricultural productivity,” Kikwete said.
The bank is a welcome surprise for Kipeta, who now hopes to secure a loan to buy a drip irrigation system, which he will use to grow onions.
"I will definitely go back to the village and apply for the loan so that I can invest in irrigation farming, I believe that will be a lasting solution to my problems,” he said.
The new development bank, part of a Kilimo Kwanza (Agriculture First) initiative which has set out policies to address climate change and other challenges, will focus on raising production of maize, sugarcane, rice, vegetables, oilseeds, meat, dairy, onions and poultry, as well as improving horticulture, fish farming and beekeeping, the government said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, the bank will work closely with financial institutions, including commercial and community banks, savings and credit co-operative societies, to extend loans to farmers.
Tanzania has 44 million hectares of arable land but only 23 percent of that is currently under effective cultivation due to low investment in modern technology, the impact of climate change and the lack of financial resources, the government says.
The United Nations has said it expects climate change to cause a significant increase in migration and widespread displacement in sub-Saharan Africa in the coming years due to weather-related disasters and the destabilizing effect on farmers of crop failures.
Tanzania is highly vulnerable to climate change, which is already causing more extreme weather events and lower yields, particularly in semi-arid and arid areas.
Densely populated Dar es Salaam itself is vulnerable to the impact of climate change – including worsening flooding - and a sustained influx of climate-induced migrants would swell the number of urban poor still further, adding to the city’s problems.
Increased investment in the farm sector has the potential to reverse this trend as it would open up more opportunities for farmers to work productively in their own villages, analysts say.
"Most farmers are desperate. They need support to revive their livelihood by learning how to adapt to the changing weather and possibly increase their crop yields,” said Edith Kija, an agriculture expert.
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