It is an undeniable fact that agriculture is the mainstay of Tanzania’s economy, employing about 85 percent of the labour force. Tanzania still relies on small-scale subsistence agriculture based on traditional practices, failing to take full advantage of commercial initiatives. Poverty in rural areas is forcing thousands of young people to leave their homes for urban areas.
The forthcoming eLearning Africa 2011 conference will focus on the improvement of agriculture through Information and Communications Technology (ICT). One aim is to make a career in farming more attractive to young people. Here, we look at how the ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ initiative or “Agriculture First” is set to reverse the trend in Tanzania.
‘Kilimo Kwanza’ stands a better chance of improving the quality of life in Tanzania if the principles of the ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ initiative, or Agriculture First, are fully implemented across all levels of society.
The involvement of young people in agriculture is a welcome idea, since under the ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ initiative there are several opportunities awaiting young, energetic and committed Tanzanians from all walks of life.
The ten pillars of ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ focus on the modernisation and commercialisation of agriculture, thereby emphasising the crucial role of ICT.
ICT as a tool has the potential to knock down the barriers inherent in subsistence and traditional farming and is the bedrock for modern agriculture governed by market forces. Coupled with the government’s commitment to ‘Kilimo Kwanza’, ICT will undoubtedly boost agriculture through information and education and by committing resources to a wider population in rural and urban areas.
President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete himself has on several occasions stressed the government’s resolve to do whatever it takes to make the green revolution a reality, and the application of ICT in this area has been given priority, as underlined by the roadmap for implementing the ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ initiative.
The government signed and ratified the AU Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) in July last year and is implementing a growth corridor concept in the early stages of the roadmap.
CAADP will enable large-scale commercial agricultural companies to enter the Tanzanian agricultural sector and grow in partnership with contract farmers as well as small-scale farmers. ICT will be essential for linking these players in both the corridor and outside world.
CAADP’s goal is to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. To do this, Tanzania and other African governments have agreed to increase public investment in agriculture by committing a minimum of 10 percent of their national budgets and raising agricultural productivity by at least 6 percent.
Tanzania is not far from achieving CAAP’s goal.
Last year’s agricultural budget increased to 8.1 percent of the total 2010-2011 budget, which stands at TZS 11.1 trillion -, a step seen by stakeholders as a clear sign of the government’s political commitment to ‘Kilimo Kwanza’.
Furthermore, the budget for building irrigation infrastructure has increased from TZS 21 billion in 2009-2010 to TZS 23 billion this financial year.
In collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the government has already drawn up the Comprehensive Guidelines for Irrigation Scheme Development under the District Agricultural Development Plan (DADP). The government has also put in place mechanisms for funding irrigation schemes by launching the District Irrigation Development Fund (DIDF) and the National Irrigation Development Fund (NIDF).
Tanzania has the potential to produce 2,000,000 metric tons of fruits worth at least TZS 1 trillion (about USD 1 billion) and approximately 1,200,000 metric tons of vegetables annually valued at TZS 600 billion.
There are many scenarios where ICT can be used as a strategy for agricultural development, given the need to communicate across an entire platform of players and stakeholders comprising farmers, commodity brokers, buyers, extension workers, policymakers, consumers, etc. Each of these stakeholders has varying needs for ICTs.
According to Towela Nyirenda-Jere, Programmes Manager, NEPAD eAfrica Commission, CSIR, Pretoria, South Africa, the most prevalent use of ICTs in agriculture is to provide farmers with timely and accurate information and advisory services. Basic information required by farmers, she says, includes market information, prices, weather forecasts, transport facilities, information on storage facilities, crop and livestock diseases and general advice related to agriculture. She explains that through the use of ICTs, the information can be provided in a variety of ways: SMS, voice, video, web portal and call centre.
In Tanzania, use of the M-Pesa and Tigo-Pesa services bears testimony to how technology has helped farmers to access easy transactions among themselves and with their business partners in urban areas.
Other applications of ICTs in agriculture include data collection, data analysis, geo-spatial applications, decision-support and knowledge-based systems, embedded ICTs in livestock and farm equipment and processes.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives (MoAFC), Tanzania has 94.5 million hectares of land, of which 44 million hectares are suitable for agriculture and 29.4 million suitable for irrigation. But only 9.5 million hectares are cultivated and only 0.27 million are under irrigation. A further 26 million hectares are devoted to grazing livestock. The sector is growing at 5 percent a year and contributing about 26.5 percent of GDP and 30 percent of export earnings. It is therefore the main sector for alleviating the rural poverty which affects many of the 30 million Tanzanians still living on the land – three quarters of all Tanzanians.
A recent MoAFC report shows that in the 2010-11 financial year, 700,000 Tanzanians faced food shortages, indicating that ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ (Agriculture First) still has a long way to go in terms of transforming the agrarian communities that still live from subsistence agriculture.
Let us hope that eLearning Africa 2011 will produce more useful recommendations on the use of technology for the benefit of Tanzanians and Africa as a whole.
The eLearning Africa session “Under Which Conditions Can Access to ICT Help African Farmers and Rural Communities to Learn?” will take place on Thursday, May 26, 2011, from 11:30 – 13:00. It will be chaired by one of the champions of ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ and will include the following presentations in English and French:
- Sanusi Jari, African Council for Distance Education (ACDE), Kenya: Challenges of Providing Agricultural Education and Research Through Technology-Mediated ODL in Nigeria
- Mark James Leclair, Farm Radio International, Canada: eLearning for the Airwaves: Building Skills of Rural Radio Broadcasters in Africa
- Gaston Donnat Bappa, MICROLOG SARL, Cameroon: Contenu numérique pour la formation agricole des populations rurales en langues locales
Other presentations on ICT and agriculture at eLearning Africa:
Edda Tandi Lwoga from Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania, will present Making Web 2.0 Technologies Work for Higher Learning Institutions in Africa on Friday, May 27, 2011, from 11:30 – 13:30.
Kolade Kamilu Bolarinwa from the University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Nigeria, will present Electronic Learning and Youth – Pastoralist Livelihood in Conflict Zone of Taraba on Thursday, May 26, 2011, from 11:30 – 13:00.