THE government has been warned against allocating over 320,000 hectares of prime land in Rukwa Region to an American agro-firm, Agrisol Energy, which is seeking to undertake large scale commercial farming for food, livestock, and jatropha for biofuel.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Meshack Opulukwa, (CHADEMA) said in Parliament on Monday while debating the ministry's 2011/12 budget estimates presentation. Mr Opulukwa said the American firm's acquisition of the land in Rukwa will displace 162,000 local farmers.
"The opposition's position that the investor is an important element in food production or that he will create employment. This is no justification in taking away land from villagers," Mr Opulukwa said.
He warned against what he termed a new culture of allocating huge tracts of land to foreign investors, saying this increased cases of land conflicts pitting farmers against pastoralists.
"We would like the minister to give us reasons why Rukwa farmers should give way to this investor because statistics show that we don't have a problem of food shortage. The only problem is poor infrastructure," he pointed out.
In his budget speech, Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives Minister, Professor Jumanne Maghembe said during the current financial year, his ministry would continue working with the private sector under Kilimo Kwanza as defined by Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme and Tanzania Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plan.
"We will also continue to implement projects under southern zone agriculture development also known as SAGOT, Feed the Future and Bread basket," he underlined. Prof Maghembe said budget constraints would reduce subsidy to farmers in breadbasket regions and would only cover 1.8 million farmers compared to 2 million last season.
"Further, some 737,000 farmers who started getting subsidies in 2008/9 through the voucher system are now strong enough to stand on their own after three years of support," he said.
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