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Scientific evidence, a necessary tool to inform policy

A RECENT speech by Finance Minister Dr Philip Mpango on the 2019/2020 budget made it clear that food satisfaction in 2018/19 has reached 124 percent.

He added that the government has embarked on the implementation of the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP-2) and emphasis is placed on developing strategic products including coffee, cotton, tea, cashew, tobacco, sunflowers, palm, rice and maize.

And concluded that in order to increase the growth of the agricultural sector, the government continues to strengthen cooperative activities and the construction of warehouses that are capable of storing 250,000 tonnes in seven zones, increasing the production of oil seeds especially sunflowers and palms, enhancing crop research activities, increase the value of agricultural products by reviving grain and oil products, controlling crop pests, enhancing agricultural access systems and enhancing crop markets systems.

Also, the government has started to improve agricultural statistics systems by starting the registration of farmers.

The ASDP-2 was the main discussion in the recent 5th Annual Agricultural Policy Conference (AAPC) which was organised by the Policy Analysis Group (PAG) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. Participants involved members working on agricultural policy projects and initiatives, academia and local and international policy think tanks.

The conference tapped onto existing efforts by the government of Tanzania and provide an inception of the reforms under the Blueprint for Regulatory Reforms to Improve the Business Environment, commonly referred to as the Blueprint.

The 5th AAPC is themed “Prioritizing Agriculture in the Industrialisation Agenda for Tanzania under ASDP-2” and captures very well the 5th phase government agenda for industrialisation in which agriculture has to be the driver, as the source of raw materials and workforce, especially for the low skilled labour.

Thus, Prof Razack Lokina, coordinator, centre for the Environment for Development (EfD) Tanzania based at the Department of Economics at the University of Dar es Salaam made remarks on the implementation of the Agricultural Sector Development Programme.

He noted that Agriculture drives economic growth and has been most effective in alleviating hunger, malnutrition and poverty in poorer nations.

That the community need to prioritize agricultural research for development to enhance the rural poor and national food and nutritional security.

He said that the researchers should conduct studies which addresses the issue of value chain and come up with important recommendations that can help policy makers in policy making processes.

That means research should touch areas of agriculture, livestock, forestry as well as climate change. All these have impact on transforming agriculture in Tanzania.

Prof Razack Lokina went on further to say that: “the AAPC, ASDP-2 and the inception of the reforms under the Blueprint are indeed important in the government’s agenda for industrialisation, with agriculture being the driver.

He stressed that: “Researchers in Tanzania should continue to produce scientifically sound research findings and disseminate finding to policy makers to assist the mission to take the country to a middleincome state”.

This should go along with the Tanzania Development Vision 2025 (TDV) which envisages transforming the economy from a predominantly agricultural one with low productivity to a diversified and semi-industrial economy with a modern rural sector and high productivity in agricultural production which generates reasonably high incomes and ensures food security and food self-sufficiency.

It should be noted that the agriculture sector has been facing a number of constraints in achieving growth targets.

In order for Tanzania to achieve the desired development in agriculture, deliberate interventions need to be taken without delay to move forward with concrete steps towards the transformation of the agriculture sector into a green revolution.

The previous studies put forward some recommendations towards achieving the intended targets to transform agriculture in Tanzania such as to address the issue of land ownership, that the government should establish land registry offices in villages that will have the power to issue land ownership titles to farmers.

Meanwhile, farmers should be trained on importance of producer organisations. The government should also build capacities and skills of cooperative institutions to enhance performance in production; processing and marketing where the question of pre and post-harvest loses arises.

We should all understand that the issue of storage facilities is crucial particularly in villages to mitigate the postharvest loss of produce. This is to emphasis that the government should facilitate planning and construction of storage facilities in rural areas.

Dr Martin Chegere lecturer and EfD researcher recently published an article on “Postharvest losses reduction by small-scale maize farmers: The role of handling practices”.

He shows concern about food insecurity have grown in Sub- Saharan Africa due to rapidly growing population and food price volatility.

That Post-harvest Losses (PHL) reduction has been identified as a key component to complement efforts to address food security challenges and improve farm incomes, especially for the rural poor.

He, analyses the role of recommended post-harvest handling practices in PHL reduction; and conducts a cost-benefit analysis of adopting practices associated with lower losses.

The study finds that maize farmers lose about 11.7 percent of their harvest in the post-harvest system. He noted that about twothirds of this loss occurs during storage.

Furthermore, the study shows that adoption of recommended post-harvest handling practices is highly correlated with lower PHL. Another recent study by Dr Remidius Ruhinduka, lecturer and EfD research fellow conducted a research and published a paper on “Climate variability and post-harvest food loss abatement technologies: evidence from rural Tanzania”.

His study focuses on improved storage and preservation technologies as an adaptation strategy in response to climate change.

In this study he highlighted the trade-off between improved cereal storage technologies and the preservation techniques among rural households in Tanzania where he found that climate variables significantly influence farmers’ choice of improved storage technologies and preserving decisions.

That is to say modern storage technologies and preservation measures are substitutes. Farmers can significantly reduce annual costs associated with preservation by adopting (usually long lasting) modern storage facilities.

In transformation of agriculture there should be timely supply of appropriate farm inputs to farmers and the designated input stockists should be supported in order to provide the services as required.

Farmers should be educated on proper use of inputs. Adoption of the Input Voucher System should be strengthened to support farmers in increasing production.

In response to this EfD research fellows, Dr Selejio, Onesmo, Prof Razack Lokina and Dr John Mduma together had published a paper on. “Smallholder Agricultural Production Efficiency of Adopters and Nonadopters of Land Conservation Technologies in Tanzania.”

Their study aims at promoting and supporting the adoption of land management and conservation technologies (LMCTs) among poor farming households has been considered to improve crop yields as well as production technical efficiency (TE).

This article compares production efficiency between adopters and nonadopters of LMCTs in Tanzania. The findings show that adopters of LMCTs had a relatively significantly higher TE than their nonadopter counterparts.

Therefore, the study concluded that promotion and supporting the adoption of LMCTs among smallholder farmers is pertinent for improving their TE as well as for increasing crop yield, thereby reducing encroachment into forest areas.

There is also a need to understand how adopters and nonadopters of LMCTs are affected by different factors when designing the policies that promote the adoption of LMCTs among the smallholder farmers for sustainable increase of agricultural productivity and TE.

A good example on adoption technology can be explained by the study conducted by Dr Byela Tibesigwa, Senior EfDT research fellow, on Ecosystem services, that target wild bees and its important role played in increasing the productivity of smallholder agriculture.

In her study, she noted that “preserving the natural habitat of bees, that is, forests, will increase productivity of smallholder farms, especially fruits like watermelons.

However, to conclude this short article, we should put emphasis on the government to collaborate with private sector and strengthen research institutions and ensure that scientific evidence to assist in transforming agricultural sector in Tanzania reaches policy makers and farmers promptly.

Furthermore, researchers should ensure that the research findings are disseminated to policy makers and should provide appropriate training to farmers and motivation by way of demonstrations.

Thus public/private sector partnership should be enhanced to invest in research and development, promote extension services and training. Also, provide adequate funding to enable research and extension services to function well as providing the required services.

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Author: SALV ATORY MACHA

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