Tanzania to invest in a better tomorrow through youth agriculture, President Hassan tells forum
The SADC nations have ample land for agriculture and could address the twin problems of food insecurity and youth unemployment if effectively and properly leveraged.
The government of Tanzania is investing extensively in promoting agribusinesses to entice more young people into agriculture under a flagship programme that aims to grow the sector, said the president of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Hassan officially opened the 53rd Plenary Assembly Session of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum (PF) in Arusha, Tanzania, on 3 July.
Twelve of the 15 SADC national parliaments that are members of the SADC PF attended the plenary session, held on the theme of the role of parliaments in modernising agriculture for food security and youth employment in the region. The session ended on 8 July.
Hassan, the first female president of Tanzania, told the plenary that her country’s flagship initiative, Building a Better Tomorrow (BBT), intended to attract young people to invest in working in agriculture and optimise the untapped potential of the agricultural value chain.
Number one job creator
Agriculture is the main source of employment and income for about 65% of the population of the SADC region. Given that SADC has one of the youngest populations globally, the region has to create up to 12 million jobs every year over the next 20 years to absorb new entrants into the labour market.
Recent statistics had shown that young people in Tanzania aged 18 to 35 years constitute 60% of the population, Hassan said. “It is, therefore, imperative that we invest in our youth and to this end we have devised a number of strategies to attract them into the agriculture sector. For us, agriculture comprises crop farming, aquafarming, fisheries, livestock-keeping and honey production.”
She said her government was investing in promoting agribusinesses for young people under its BBT programme. “As a government, we are facilitating access to land. Youths will be given their own land. We are facilitating financial support, technology, market opportunity and capacity enhancement.”
When these opportunities were announced, there was an overwhelming response from young people, but in the end, only 812 youths were recruited and are now undergoing training.
“When they finish this training they will be enrolled in 13 incubation centres for hands-on skills and go into agribusiness under block systems.” After including the youth, the sector was expected to grow by 10% from the current 3.6% and create 1.5 million job opportunities in eight years from 2022 to 2030.
Tanzania had increased the budget of the agricultural sector fourfold, and increased financial allocation to the agricultural sector over the years had put special emphasis on irrigation schemes and extension services, Hassan said.
This is in keeping with the 2004 Dar es Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in the SADC region, which urges governments to allocate at least 10% of their national budgets to agriculture, as recommended by the African Union (AU).
Hassan said her government had established an agricultural advisory council to advise the Presidency on agricultural best practices and the most effective approaches to expedite agricultural transformation in the country. This council included individuals with the requisite skills and experience in agriculture and other sectors relevant to agricultural development, and the council was expected to contribute significantly towards the agricultural sector development in Tanzania.
Rising food insecurity
Hassan highlighted that the SADC region, with a population of about 380 million people, had about 51.3 million food-insecure people as shown by 2020-2021 estimates, representing an increase of 25.7% from 2019-2020.
“Just in one year, there has been an increase of 25.7% of food-insecure people in the SADC region. This is unacceptable.” The situation has been worsened by global conflicts and climate change that negatively affects the agricultural sector in the majority of SADC countries.
It was ironic that there were so many food-insecure people in SADC, “yet we have a total of 9.85 million square kilometres of land, which could make the region a food basket for Africa and beyond, if effectively and properly leveraged”, Hassan said.
With vast tracts of land for agriculture, the region had to do whatever was necessary to increase food production and end hunger. Interventions to make food available and accessible to everyone in the region could include a total commitment to the implementation of the various policies and strategies that had been adopted. Examples include the 2014 SADC Regional Agriculture Policy, food production through input support programmes, intra-SADC trade, African Continental Free Trade Area protocols, the blue economy and agriculture to build climate resilience.
Walking the talk
She challenged the region’s legislators to “walk the talk” on strengthening the agriculture sector. “We are good at coming up with many policies and policy programmes, but we do not implement them. It is time we started to implement our own policies for food production.
“We must commit to the implementation of [the AU’s] Agenda 2063, particularly Goal Number 5 on modern agriculture to increase productivity and production, as well as the [UN’s] Sustainable Development Goal 2, which intends curtailing hunger by 2030.”
Hassan stressed that national parliaments had a critical role to play in the oversight and enactment of much-needed laws and policies, as well as ratification of regional and global protocols that encourage agricultural development. “MPs have a vital role to play.”
Tanzania will host the Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 summit in Dar es Salaam in the first week of September under the theme “Recover, regenerate, act”.
Hassan said: “We hope it will be another platform for us to come up with practical contextualisation of the agricultural and food security issues.”
On gender equity and gender equality, the president urged all female parliamentarians and professional groups to continue joining efforts and raising voices to call for justice to be done.
“This is a long-worn thought. Changes are being seen because we presented ourselves on the battlefield in 1995 [at the UN’s World Conference on Women in Beijing]. Much has changed, without which Samia Suluhu Hassan would not be standing here today as the president of Tanzania,” she said to applause. DM
Winner of the SADC Media and several other journalistic awards, Moses Magadza is a freelance journalist and PhD candidate with research interests in media framing, (re)presentation and social justice.