The nation helps itself by helping smallholders

The importance of agriculture in the national economy has been a major talking point since Tanzania gained independence more than six decades ago.

However, the vast majority of smallholder farmers remain stuck in the same old ways.

Smallholders, who comprise nearly 80 percent of those depending on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood, have come to realise that they must take charge of their own economic interests and lift themselves out of poverty – with a helping hand from the government, of course.

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The 2003 Maputo Declaration, which the Tanzanian government signed, requires governments to inject 10 per cent of their total budget allocations into their respective agriculture sectors.

For more than a decade, though, that grand dream has been stuck between the pages of reports, and policies have not been grounded in concrete action.

Form instance, while the national budget in Tanzania has risen significantly in recent years, agriculture allocations have not kept pace with this increase.

While agriculture’s recurrent budget has risen every year, the development budget has proceeded at a much slower pace.

Clearly, there is no political commitment to investing in modernising the way smallholder farmers work so they can produce more.

Policy makers must bear in mind that most of the problems smallholder farmers face reflect the chronic issues that affect the national economy.

They include a higher import component in foreign trade, more than 10 per cent unemployment rate, poor infrastructure, low productivity and poor quality of social services.

At this rate, it will be an uphill struggle for Tanzania to become a middle-income semi-industrialised economy.

Large-scale farmers should not benefit from state support at the expense of smallholder farmers.

We need to create interdependence between them if we are to enjoy rapid economic transformation from a backward agrarian economy to a robust industrial economy.

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