Friday, 15 April 2011

New agriculture plan ignores small farmers

The Tanzania’s green revolution grand plan (Kilimo Kwanza) is doomed to have little impact on the improvement of agriculture because the process of its preparation neglected the needs and priorities of small-scale producers, stakeholders have said.

Speaking at an agricultural forum recently in Dar es Salaam stakeholders said sidelining small farmers, livestock keepers, fishermen, and beekeepers, who form the bulk of the agricultural community in the country was a mistake that could make the green revolution less meaningful for the majority of Tanzanians.

About 80 per cent of Tanzanians depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, according to official estimates. The sector also employs more than 50 per cent of the country’s workforce in small-scale production ventures. Furthermore agriculture contributes 26.7 per cent of the country’s GDP; 30 per cent of total exports; and 65 per cent of raw materials for Tanzanian industries.

Mr Richard Mbunda from the Political Science department of the University of Dar es Salaam has done a research entitled “Kilimo Kwanza and Small Scale Producers: An Opportunity or a Curse?” He said during the forum organised by Land Rights Research & Resource Institute (HakiArdhi) that despite the fact that commonsense dictated that small farmers should be key to agriculture transformation because of their majority share in the sector; they were, nevertheless, sidelined.

“The preparation of Kilimo Kwanza (KK) was an affair of the business community under the Tanzania Business Council and no deliberate efforts were done to consult small scale producers,” Mr Mbunda said in a draft report of the research.He said even credit conditions from the agriculture window of the Tanzania Investment bank that has been entrusted with financing KK leaves out small producers.“TIB only lends between Sh100 and Sh1 billion for agriculture-related projects. Poor farmers, who form the majority, cannot afford to borrow that much,” Mr Mbunda said.

He added that even the instance that farmers form groups does not hold water because most of these groups and cooperatives are poorly managed, and usually, uncreditworthy. KK was adopted in 2009 by the government as a national resolve to accelerate agricultural transformation. Its main focus is to modernise and commercialise agriculture in Tanzania. The KK plan was meant to be a break from past initiatives which, according to brains behind KK, failed to “attain the anticipated modernised and highly productive agriculture.”

“Past initiatives were centrally planned, and largely implemented by the government or its institutions. To the contrary KK is an initiative that originated from the private sector and became a PPP [Public Private Partnership]. Thus the private sector is expected to be the lead implementing agent of KK,” reads a KK document.
The implication of the KK, according to experts, is that in order to be successful Tanzania’s agricultural must employ a heavy usage of mechanisation and huge financial capital.

However experts have warned that if that kind of agricultural revolution is done blindly and fails to recognise the place of petty producers, as indications have already shown, KK will be creating a labour/land crisis that would not easily be contained in the country.

A renowned Indian Economics professor, Utsa Patnaik, and former secretary general of the UN Kofi Annan say agricultural transformation in poor countries should be centred around small-scale producers, because neglecting them is most likely to lead into high unemployment, deepening poverty and, ultimately, political instability.“...

strategies which generate livelihoods and genuine development for the majority must necessarily mean not the destruction, but on the contrary, the preservation of petty production,” Prof Patnaik, the author of “The Republic of Hunger” said at the second Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival week in Dar es Salaam last year.

“Small-holder farmers are the mainstay of African agriculture. They have to be right at the heart of Africa’s green revolution.  We need to ensure they are given the knowledge and support to play their full part in the transformation of food production through access to seeds, fertilizers and other resources,” Mr Annan who is also the chairperson of the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), said in Rome this year.

Prof Patnaik argued that mechanisation and technical advancement in European agriculture and industry in 19th and 20th centuries was partly responsible for colonialism as the unemployed masses had to moved away in large-scale migrations in search of better conditions. This in a way defused economic crisis and political tensions in Europe.
“... millions of peasants today in the third world have nowhere to migrate to and little possibility of absorption into the secondary sector,” Prof Patnaik said.

Mr Annan noted that developing Africa’s agriculture was not the matter of big farms versus small, but rather of making the two working together through creating linkages.“ Responsible, large scale farming systems can play an important role in directly supporting small farmers through technical advice, transfer of new technologies and support and access to markets,” he said at an International Fund for Agricultural Development’s Governing Council meeting in Rome.

The research conducted by Mr Mbunda already found out further that the start of the implementation of KK has now left small scale producers in farming, livestock, fisheries and beekeeping at the crossroads partly because they do not understand the project or are unaware of their role.

The immediate feeling that they get when they hear about KK is power tillers and tractors that are either very difficult for them to buy or not useful to them given their topography and nature of the soil, according to the findings of the research.“Kilimo Kwanza presents to them a dreadful feeing of losing their land to large-scale investors through land grabbing and a fear of being displaced from agriculture itself, which is their lifeline,” Mr Mbunda said when presenting a draft report at the forum. 

The notion that Tanzania has ample idle land, as implied in the KK documents, also serves to justify the fears of the peasants.“The notion that Tanzania has idle land is misleading taking into consideration the high population density and the high birth rate of this country. And, in fact, most of the arable land is already occupied by peasants, livestock keepers and beekeepers,” said Mwanahamisi Singano, a Programme officer at ActionAid Tanzania.

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