This, indeed, is a sorry spectacle. Mr Kariongi says that “once farmers collect their harvests a period of miserly sets in. They have no clear idea where to sell their crops. So, their incomes depend on the mercy of unscrupulous traders who dictate prices without considering the farmers’ position.”
It is imperative that farmers, who make up nearly 90 per cent of the 45 million-strong nation, need a lot of state support. It is these mostly poor subsistence farmers who eke out a meagre living out of farm work and produce surplus to feed the rest of the nation.
Farmers often fail to transport their produce to distant markets for lack of feeder roads in their localities. The absence of feeder roads also prevents major crop buyers from reaching areas with bumper harvests. So, small-time unscrupulous traders enjoy a field day.
The food crops grown mainly in the Southern Highlands, the nation’s bread basket and other regions including Kilimanjaro and Morogoro, are maize, sorghum, millet, paddy, wheat, sweet potatoes, cassava, pulses and bananas. These are the foods we subsist on.
Hunger never stalks the Southern highlands which comprise, Mbeya, Iringa, Ruvuma and Rukwa regions and rarely does so in Kilimanjaro and Morogoro.
Ironically, it is the farmers in these crop-rich regions who often complain that the surplus food stockpiled in their homes spoils for lack of markets while residents in Manyara, Shinyanga, Dodoma, Mara, Arusha and Tabora struggle with pangs of hunger.
This is a laughable scenario. There should be an elaborate mechanism that enables food deficient areas to get supplies from affluent regions. The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) should help address this problem.
Like Kilimo Kwanza, SAGCOT is the brainchild of President Jakaya Kikwete, a firebrand politician who has the welfare of Tanzanians close to his heart.
The initiative is tailored to put more food on the table in all homes and generate surplus for export. In fact, Tanzania has no reason to have hungry citizens in one area and rotting food stocks in another.
After all even the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGRs) hold enough food to ward off hunger. Affluent farmers should be helped in their quest to access good markets.