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Tanzania 2014 | AGRICULTURE | FOCUS: AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT

Positive steps have been taken by President Kikwete's administration to empower farmers and help Tanzania reach its agricultural development targets.

Despite commitments made to dedicate 10% of Tanzania's national budget to agricultural development, the government has been able to apportion just 6% to the sector in recent years. Promising national growth figures of around 7% over the past decade have not been sufficiently reflected in the growth of agriculture, nor in diminishing poverty levels. Recently, however, Tanzania has won international praise for its initiatives to resolve developmental problems in the sector. The establishment of the Tanzania Agriculture Development Bank (TADB) represents a direct attempt to engage with major issues facing small-scale farmers, such as the near impossibility of gaining access to credit, and the vitally important issue of acquiring certification of land ownership.

In a conversation with TBY, Tanzanian Minister of Finance William Mgimwa commented that the government has “discovered that the fastest growing sectors like construction, transportation, and finance will not employ as many people as agriculture, which has been growing at an average of 4.3% for the past decade." Yet, while approximately 75% of the country's workforce is involved in small-scale farming, just 10% of the population has obtained official recognition of the claim to the land they farm. Furthermore, fewer than 6% of Tanzanians have access to financial loans from banks, and agricultural loans make up just 1% of those loans, according to a September 2013 report on allafrica.com. With this in mind, the Tanzanian authorities have set up the TADB, which aims to distribute micro-loans to farmers in order to improve their equipment, and to start improved processing, packaging, and storage practices that will consequently boost the sector. “We do see problems with low productivity in agriculture," stated President Kikwete in an interview with TBY, “and the majority of low-income groups live in rural areas." Implementation of poor and inefficient tools and methods are holding back the sector, and Tanzania's impoverished rural inhabitants would benefit unquestionably from irrigation technology and other innovations.

The low productivity of the agricultural labor force is clear in the fact that the sector represents roughly one-quarter of GDP, but is served by around three-quarters of the working population. A reliance on subsistence farming makes many in rural regions susceptible to shortages during periodic droughts, a fact not lost on the government. As the population continues to expand (it has seen an increase of 30% over the past decade), reliability and consistency will become increasingly important to ensure that the country does not develop a major food deficit. For this reason, the government's attempts to forestall changeable yields and usher in advanced farming techniques through burgeoning financial services networks have been met with commendation from Tanzania's African neighbors. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) notes the central role of the financial sector in changing agriculture, and is encouraging the exploration of new sources of medium-term financing for fixed assets such as processing facilities and tractors.