WHEN on June 2, a Norwegian fertiliser multinational company - Yara International - quietly launched in Oslo a fertiliser initiative that seeks to triple maize production in seven eastern African countries, little did many Tanzanians know that the scheme would be successful and would earn enthusiastic support of their government.
But after experimental fertiliser deliveries to smallholder farmers in villages, Yara rendered agronomic support and digitalisation in Songwe, Kigoma and Tabora regions. The government says Yara’s initiative makes Tanzania increase food production and export the surplus to food-deficit neighbouring countries.
On October 11 four months after the Oslo launch of fertiliser deliveries in Dar es Salaam, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told the audience, including Norwegian Ambassador to Tanzania Elisabeth Jacobsen that Yara’s initiative could not have been more opportune.
“Yara’s decision to distribute free fertilisers via its Action Africa initiative has come at the most appropriate time. Farmers need badly fertilisers and I believe the use of these fertilisers will increase food production and this will meet our main goal which is to ensure food security in our country and increase farmer’s disposal incomes. I am told that 12,500 metric tonnes valued at 16.5bn/- will go to our farmers… Yara deserves our thanks. We, in the government, pledge to continue cooperating with investors of your calibre; investors with good intent and good and clear goals to our farmers,” Mr Majaliwa said.
Tanzania’s national annual fertiliser requirements stand at 485,000 metric tonnes, according to 2018/19 fiscal year figures. Most of the fertilisers are imported under the bulk pur chase system. The PM said the government was keen on Yara’s fertiliser programme because the government itself was encouraging farmers to produce enough food crops during the current farming season.
He said there were vivid indicators that neighbouring countries would need food imports from Tanzania. “Ours is a good-hearted nation. Once we are sure of our food security, we will sell the surplus to our neighbours so that farmers increase their disposal incomes.”
Mr Majaliwa appealed to paddy and maize farmers to make most of the initiative because he said, “we are eagerly waiting to see the results of this project.” He warned that the government would take strong action to anyone who would misuse or abuse the Yara initiative.
At least 83,000 farmers are projected to receive high quality fertilisers countrywide under the initiative, according to Minister for Agriculture Japhet Hasunga who was the guest of honour at the softlaunch of free fertiliser deliveries in Songwe Region on September 16, this year.
Mr Majaliwa praised Yara Company for introducing digitalisation in Tanzania’s farming base and called for consolidation.
“I am here to congratulate Yara Company on this important step, but also to prove that the government is together with you in your activities that aim at making our farmers produce quality crops and in large quantities using your products and modern farming techniques,” he said.
For his part, Yara Tanzania Ltd Managing Director Winstone Odhiambo assured the Premier that fertilisers would go to eligible applicants. Under this programme both the government and Yara Company know accurately the beneficiaries.
Fertilisers are given to only online registered applicants. Farmers must apply via *149*46*16# before deliveries are made. Mr Majaliwa thanked the company for offering free agronomists to advise farmers, saying the government would also send its own extension officers to join Yara agronomists.
Mr Hasunga praised the online application system, saying fertilisers were going to those who had applied for it. Further the government and the company will make follow-ups. Tanzania wants to produce 8,000,000 tonnes during the 2021/22 fiscal year, up from the 6,680,758 tonnes harvested in the 2016/17 fiscal year.
Tanzania is known to have benefited most from the Yara initiative because it emerged victorious in the war against Covid-19 pandemic and has an elaborate system for tracing fertiliser recipients because applicants are permanent residents in registered villages.
The villages are connected to national network to facilitate agro-processing and minimise post-harvest losses. Farmers are guaranteed markets by their cooperative societies and unions and the government is doing its utmost to further strengthen the cooperative movement.
When launching the project in Oslo on June 2, Yara International said the initiative’s goal was to mobilise support for 250,000 smallholder farmers in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Rwanda and Kenya.
It says in a statement that the initiative includes advocacy and partnerships, farmer connectivity and digital solutions and operational support including 40,000 metric tonnes of high quality fertilisers with zinc for improved crop nutrition.
“Yara’s fertiliser contribution, combined with agronomic support, is expected to triple maize production and feed more than one million people in seven countries,” the statement says. During that June launch, President and CEO of Yara International Svein Tore Holsether said “… we have a responsibility to support vulnerable farming communities and help avert a hunger crisis.”
Yara’s initiative, dubbed as Action Africa: Thriving Farms, Thriving Future seeks to keep food available and affordable for the most vulnerable, keep SMEs going as they are the backbone of food systems in Africa, get inputs to smallholders, keep food markets open and safe and keep knowledge flowing to farmers and make follow-ups whenever possible.