- Published on Thursday, 13 September 2012 03:27
- Written by SOSTHENES MWITA
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PAULINA Wambura of Kuruya Village in Rorya District wakes up a few hours after midnight, picks up a water pot and travels on foot to a distant gully where holes scooped out in the sandy ground yield water. This is the only source of water for Kuruya villagers.
Paulina’s husband escorts her to the water hole armed with a bow and arrows. Here, hyenas have a penchant for attacking women and children. At the water hole Paulina finds other women and their husbands waiting for the water to ooze out of the sand.
It is not uncommon for people in rural Tanzania to walk many hours to fetch water that is not even considered safe to drink. In Tanzanian cities most people wake each morning and turn on a tap without giving it a thought.
But it is not all roses even in urban centres. Residents in Dar es Salaam have now resorted to drilling boreholes in their backyards. Unfortunately most end up obtaining saline water. But the acquisition is better than no water at all as tap water is often scarce.
In this country, the affluent in urban centres eat at least two meals a day and know that they can access medical help if needed. In Tanzania, life expectancy is 51 years and the economy is 80 per cent agricultural. Most of the land is arable but many people do not have enough to eat.
Despite living under such hardships, Tanzanians are full of life and spirit. It is unfortunate that lack of clean water is a significant problem. Collecting water can take up to five hours a day in rural villages. Some rural women carry as much as 18 kilos on their heads as they walk 10 kilometres or more each way, to and from the water source. The government and its development partners is providing access to clean water by building wells and boreholes.
To ensure wells are sustainable over many years, each village elects a community well management team and determines rules for the well. This is common practice especially in rural villages. A low fee is established so that funds are set aside to replace parts, maintain the well and ensure that everyone has access to safe drinking water.
Adding community gardens near these wells provides opportunities for agricultural training and projects that can help diversify crops and lead to improved family nutrition. This is mainly done through small-scale irrigation. There are numerous schemes that are tailored to heave the vulnerable out of poverty. In some villages, goat banks provide a unique opportunity for families to become self-supporting. A pair of young goats is provided for a family to raise and breed.
Training is provided on how to care for them and once kids are born, they are passed on to another family. The original family continues to breed their goats. Goats breed easily, are easy to care of and can provide milk and meat for families. I visited Chonde village in Dodoma Rural District a few months ago out of sheer curiosity.
I wanted to see development projects in the village. What impressed me most was not the primary school that was being built largely on self-help basis but the crop bank (warehouse) for storage of farm produce. Construction of crop banks is in line with the Warehouse Receipts Act of 2005. Like the primary school the crop bank had been built by villagers at Chonde. The Warehouse Receipts Bill 2005 appeared to be a controversial, unconstructive effort that ran into stiff opposition at a seminar for Members of Parliament in July of that year.
Some legislators thought it would graduate into "a very bad law." A crop bank? What do you mean? The Bill had required farmers to shunt their produce into established warehouses (or crop banks) and return home with delivery receipts -- not money. The farmers would use these receipts as collateral to obtain monetary loans from financial institutions. This was explained clearly in the Bill. But some MPs contended that there was no point in storing farmers' produce in warehouses.
They reasoned that farmers needed to sell their produce in cash and spend the money on essentials such fertilizers, food, school fees, blankets and better shoes. One MP said that Tanzanian farmers had immovable assets in the form of plots of arable land or even farms. These immovable properties can swiftly be used as collateral in banks to obtain loans, he pointed out. A round of traditional table banging greeted this view, as the Bill appeared headed for a flop.
The legislator suspected that the Ministry of Cooperatives and Marketing must have borrowed the "crude" idea from South Africa.
In South Africa some farmers are wealthy individuals who engage in big-time mechanical agriculture and the harvests there are invariably bumper. The legislator said the idea could be a brilliant one in the South African situation. But it, certainly, could not suit the condition in rural Tanzania where most of the producers are small-scale subsistence farmers.
He said he did not expect the Bill to help a small-time farmer who tills the land with a hand hoe. Another legislator wondered where each farmer would get the money to pay for transportation of produce to the warehouses. The legislator also said farmers incur a lot of expenses preparing their farms and that they need to recoup their expenses during the harvest season and start preparing for the following farming season.
"So, what farmers need is hard cash for their produce, not receipts!" he insisted. Well, the Bill finally saw the light of day. It was endorsed and has graduated into "a good law." The law is tailored to promote national economy and cut back on poverty. It is the weaknesses in the free market economy that have prompted adoption of the plan. Crop banks have numerous benefits for farmers apart from enabling them to borrow money from financial institutions.
The banks will reduce crop losses and boost food security both for farmers and the nation. The crops would also be stored safely, ensuring quality control. The warehouses would also act as a hedge against price falls. Farmers would decide to sell their crops at the opportune moment without suffering losses even after a long spell of time. The arrangement would also help to check and maintain the quality of crops.
The arrangement makes farmers credit-worthy. All a farmer would need to do would be to take his Warehouse Receipt to a financial institution and walk out moments later with borrowed money in his pocket. He would proceed to buy fertilizers, clothes and settle school fees for his children. So, when the objecting parliamentarians finally saw sense in the arrangement they called for storage of all sorts of grains - maize, sorghum and finger millet. Some thought sun-dried vegetables could be stored as well. Others said dried fish such as sardines could be stored for years without spoiling. Crop banks have sprouted elsewhere in Tanzania's 12,000 villages.