The Horn of Africa region – Eritirea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Somali – has faced persistent food shortages due to a mix of climatic conditions and conflict in some parts of the region. Over 22 million people face a dire lack of food, a decade after setting the global sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Four consecutive seasons of failed rains in the region and in Northern Kenya has threatened to further exacerbate the food situation in the Horn.
The single known reason why rains are failing in what is supposed to be the world’s most rain rich region is climate change, and that is not a natural disaster, it is man made.
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Weather patterns have changed. Seasons have become unpredictable. The phenomenon explains itself, weather, by definition is the condition of the atmosphere at any given time, but climate is the noted weather patterns over period not less than 30 years.
Now climate change has made it so that the known weather patterns are no longer predictable, and for areas dependent on rain fed agriculture, planting seasons are no longer predictable.
Short of global concerted efforts, few rain fed agriculture dependent regions in Africa will meet Sustainable Development Goal 2 – end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.
When the goal to end hunger was set in 2015, parties that described it as ambitious were considered critics but with just seven of 15 years to go, the critics are increasingly becoming the realistic parties.
Tanzania’s road to food security
However, despite the reality on the ground, failing rains and more than 22 million on the brink of starvation, nothing is stopping yet more ambitious plans from being set. Take Tanzania for instance, a country in the vicinity of the Horn of Africa that depends on rain fed agriculture. Agriculture Minister Mr Hussein Bashe, announced that the government remains committed to ‘achieving more than 10 per cent growth for the agriculture sector by 2030.’
Not only is the country confident that it will increase agricultural productivity in the face of failing rains, but it will also ensure food security to the extent of having surplus for export. Tanzania has announced plans to ‘increase the value of export of agricultural produce from 1.2 billion US dollars to more than 5 billion US dollars by 2030.’
“The government intends to increase sales of horticulture produce from the current 750 million US dollars per annum to 2 billion US dollars per annum by 2030 and this will largely rely on stable and reliable irrigation infrastructures,” said Bashe.
Tanzania may very well set an example to follow for the rest of the region, as Minister Bashe put it, the government is well aware that it will require massive investment in infrastructure and financing to pull this through.
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“Productive agriculture is crucial and it requires extensive and sustainable research, reliable agriculture inputs, extension services, suitable infrastructure, financing and effective public, private partnership,” he told media in the country’s capital of Dodoma recently.
Investing in Agriculture
To realize this ambitious goal, the government has allocated the needed budget to finance new irrigation projects, subsidize fertilisers, control post-harvest loss, set up warehouses, construct biological control units and secure reliable markets .
Just how committed is Tanzania to this plan? The country is gearing up to expand areas under irrigation to 8.5 million hectares, by 2030, that is 50 per cent of the total area cultivated in the country.
Under this plan, the prioritised crops are maize, rice, cotton, cashew nut, tea, coffee, tobacco, sisal, palm, wheat, soybean, cocoa, cassava, sugarcane, horticulture and sunflower.
Budget allocation for the agriculture sector has increased to a whopping 954bn for the financial year 2022/2023 up from 294bn, which was allocated during the previous fiscal year.
To achieve these financial intensive plans, Tanzania is getting aid from a score of investors but two key ones are the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP).
The government of Tanzania is also not monopolizing its agricultural development initiative but welcomes the private sector.
“… by working jointly with the private sector, the country expects to cut importation of sugar to zero by 2025 from the current 20 per cent. The same is expected in other products like edible oil, wheat and fertiliser whose importation currently stands at 60, 90 and 90 per cent respectively amounts that are envisioned to drop to 30, 50 and zero respectively by 2030,” said the minister.
In its strategic plan, Tanzania invested in the construction of 25 new irrigation schemes which are fed by 14 dams with the capacity of storing 131,535,000 cubic metres and watering an impressive 53,234 hectares; and all of that is covered in one year alone, the 2022/2023 financial year.
As of December last year, Tanzania signed some 21 development contracts of which, 18 were specific for irrigation schemes involving the construction of nine water dams spread across 12 districts in seven regions and employing over 120,000 people.