Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Prof Jumanne Maghembe

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran on Saturday donated 100 power tillers together with accessories and 100 units of trailers to Tanzania in a move that aims at reducing importation of wheat.

Speaking at a brief handover ceremony in Dar es Salaam, the Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, said that 95 per cent of food consumption in the country is locally produced  and the remaining 5 per cent imported largely comprises of wheat.

“With these tillers, we want to expand production of wheat such that so much of foreign exchange doesn’t go into food import. These machines are compatible with the terrain where wheat is grown,” he said.  Prof Maghembe however, said that the cultivators alone would not make the country achieve her goal in terms of revolutionizing agriculture under Kilimo Kwanza initiative.

He charged that extension workers should be adequately deployed to help educate farmers on the best practices. “The extension officers are not doing enough to deliver our services,” he stressed. He urged experts in the ministry to ensure that extension services reach all the farmers in the rural areas.  He added that the cultivators worth about 290m/- will be distributed for implementation of irrigation schemes, farmer training institutions, vocational education and training authorities.

He also said that the Ministry’s mechanization department will receive some of them to help the country mechanise its agriculture activities by giving training to the local farmers so that they can better handle the power tillers.  “We will institute a progressive monitoring and evaluation system to ensure maximum performance and utilization of these machines,” he promised the Iranian Ambassador, Mr Mohsen Ghomi.

Prof Maghembe also pointed a finger at agriculture experts for not doing enough in increasing food production saying that for a country with 31 million out of 45 million population engaged in agriculture, the sector only contributes 27 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  He said that it was baffling that from the country’s foreign exchange earnings, edible oil came second after petroleum products in spending, yet the country was endowed with sunflower, palm oil and many others.

“Evidence shows that edible oil that we buy doesn’t in fact come in crude form but is rather bottled in the country and sold. This has to change and we have to start producing our own edible oil,” he stressed.  The Minister challenged experts to work closely with small scale crop producers to increase productivity per unit area.

The Ministry has recently employed 5,000 extension officers in a move to ensure that they reach farming communities and share technological information  to avoid dependence on foreign experts to provide training.

The Iran Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Mohsen Ghomi, expressed his country’s commitment to strengthen its relations with Tanzania particularly in agriculture since Tanzania has evidently shown its desire to modernize the sector. Mr Ghomi guaranteed on the efficiency of the cultivators which he said comply with international standards to be appreciated by farmers without regrets.

The Director of Irrigation and Technical Services Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Raphael Daluti, who spoke on behalf of the Permanent Secretary said that agricultural development would be achieved with such improved work tools. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Assistant Director and Head of Department of Middle East, Mr Christopher Mvula, explained that the donation was  a result of an agreement reached in 2010 between the then Foreign Ministers of the two countries.

Mr Mvula said that Iran agreed to commit 1.2m US Dollars whereby 600,000 US Dollars would go to the agriculture sector and the other 600,000 US Dollars into the health sector with an establishment of a health facility in Msasani area. The agreement also included Zanzibar which was promised 1m US Dollars. A total of 50 cultivators have been dispatched to Zanzibar for official handover on Monday.

By MASEMBE TAMBWE, Tanzania Daily News

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