Audax Rukonge on his farm. Photo Credit: Zuwena Shame

Smallholder farmers in Tanzania grapple with low productivity

By Zuwena Shame

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_letter=”I” dropcap_content=”N TANZANIA, agriculture contributes significantly to the economy. Small-scale farmers, including livestock and fishery, dominate production, with more than 90 percent of cultivated land. The sector provides about 77.5 per cent of employment and livelihood to more than 70 percent of the population, 29 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), 30 per cent of exports and 65 per cent of inputs to the industrial sector.”]

However, smallholders face many challenges, including low productivity. “Small-scale farmers don’t benefit from their farmingrelated activities, There are so many challenges we are facing, including low productivity and production being a major concern.

As we all know the low productivity problem is compounded by the poor quality of seeds used, poor agronomical practices, as well as limited access to water resources which is also an important component of the farming business,” said Audax Rukonge, a farmer based in Kimanzichana ward in Mkuranga district, Coastal region in Tanzania. Mr Rukonge added that small-scale farmers also grapple with the effects of climate change as well as pests and diseases.

The Agriculture and Trade ministries have been striving to integrate farmers with agro-industries to ensure that farmers have a market and earn better prices for their produce, cut back on post-harvest losses, develop their entrepreneurial capacities, and create viable livelihood options in rural areas. It is along this course that contract farming has come to be viewed as a magic wand.

“These four challenges are major ones facing small-scale farmers. As part of the solutions, at the farm level we need to have reliable information accessible by all farmers throughout the year, it’s very critical the usage of information either through the use of technology to access information through social media such as YouTube by experts and released in regular basis can help small farmers,” said Mr Rukonge.

The Tanzania Fertiliser Regulatory Authority plans to provide fertiliser subsidies to farmers to increase production. Tanzanian Agriculture Minister Hussein Mohammed Bashe (MP), when presenting the agriculture budget for 2023/2024, said the government, through the Tanzania Fertiliser Regulatory Authority, would continue providing subsidies until 2023/26 to increase fertiliser usage from 19kg per acre up to the latest 50kg per acre. Reduce production expenses and increase the availability of fertiliser.

However, Mr Rukonge said fertiliser subsidies were a short-term solution. The usage of fertilisers in Tanzania remains below recommended rates, and low-input and rain-fed subsistence farming dominates agriculture, contributing to poor crop yields, according to the AGRA Report 2016.

The government of Tanzania has made various efforts to address farmers’ access to finance challenges by collaborating with various local and international partners such as the United States Agency for International Development through its $6.5 million programme Farmer-to-Farmer Tanzania Access to Finance (2018-2023), implemented by the International Executive Service Corps. Mr Rukonge said small-scale farmers have other challenges related to access to finance, which is one of the working resources apart from land and labour.

“I think it’s also the role of actors, including the government and banks to provide reliable access to small-scale farmers when it comes to financing with low-interest rates. We are happy that the interest rate is a single digit for agricultural-related credit facilities.

It’s something to applaud the government,” he said. Mr Rukonge also urged the Tanzanian government to consider the financial inclusion of the marginalised, especially the youth and women, to benefit from funding from microfinance institutions, banks and the government.

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