Water scarcity threatens horticulture industry

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UNAVAILABILITY of water poses a huge challenge to horticultural farmers, threat-ening the future of the multi-million dollar industry, play-ers have said.

Speaking to the ‘Sunday News’ yesterday, they said the declining water levels also threaten the country’s future food security prospects and calls for immediate action to manage the resource well.

An expert with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Fidels Paul, said that water scarcity will, in the near future, strongly impact not only on the horticultural sub-sector, but also on food security at large, if precau-tions are not timely taken.

Owing to poor law enforcement, over 80 per cent of water in use is left uncon-trolled, resulting into the decline of the flow of rivers and conflicts among commu-nity members, let alone those pitting smallholder farmers and investors, as well as into the declining horticultural production and productivity.

Mr Paul said that when it comes to water scarcity in the past three years; some areas of the country have at times faced acute water shortages.

“As a result, some farm-ers lost crops due to drought. During heavy rains – infra-structure was destroyed by floods,” he explained.

According to Mr Paul, water rationing in most of the farming areas led to farmers accessing water only once a week or not at all.

Procedures and processes for sustainable management and development of water in Tanzania are stipulated in the 2009 Water Resources Management Act.

The law gives nine basin water authorities the man-date to sustainably manage the precious resource in their areas of jurisdiction, with Pangani Basin Water Board, for instance, oversee-ing Pangani, Umba, Msangazi and Zigi rivers spanning the Northern and Coastal areas.

Horticulture though is gradually becoming the main activity in these remote areas, where approximately 300,000 farmers are in dire need of water to irrigate their crops; there is no specific legislation to govern the rural water sub-sector.

The 1982 Local Government (District Authorities) Act gives local authorities the mandate to, among other things, regulate and control water supply and usage, yet neither regulations nor by-laws are in place.

“This has resulted into uncontrolled use of water that is not only inhibiting horticultural productivity, but also fuelling conflicts, most-ly compounded by rights to access the resource in Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions,” Mr Paul explains in his paper presented at a one-day water stakeholders’ dia-logue meeting held in Arusha.

TAHA Chief Executive Officer, Jacqueline Mkindi said the Fifth Phase Government’s industrialisa-tion policy was a blessing to horticultural farmers whose local market will be expanded as a result of crops processing plants to be put up at their disposal.

“Much as the industriali-sation policy calls for boost-ing production of agricultural crops to serve as raw materi-als, the farmers’ long outcry over lack of reliable markets will be solved once and for all,” Ms Mkindi noted.

She said the industry, which currently employs about 2.5 million horticul-tural farmers, 60 per cent of them being women, will attract 10 million farmers in five year-time as a result of TAHA’s five-year strategy.

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