A SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SECURITY, HON. CHARLES N. KEENJA (MP.), AT THE SECOND UNIVERSITY WIDE SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE OF SOKOINE UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE (SUA), HELD AT THE INSTITUTE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION, SUA,

MOROGORO 9TH MAY, 2002

 

The Vice Chancellor,

The Deputy Vice Chancellor,

The Registrar,

The Director of Research and Postgraduate Studies,

Invited Guests,

Dear Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

            I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Anselm Lwoga, for giving me the opportunity of being with you this morning at the official opening of this University Wide Scientific Conference.  I have been given to understand that the conference is bringing together researchers from the Sokoine University of Agriculture and from other institutions involved in agriculture related research in the Country.  I am also informed that for the two days, you will deliberate on how best research can contribute to poverty alleviation in the country.  Allow me to commend the Sokoine University of Agriculture for taking the lead in convening this important conference.  I hope that in future you will continue to provide leadership in this as well as in other fields related to agriculture.

 

2.         Mr. Vice Chancellor,  I am informed that the theme of your conference is “Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development : the role of research in agriculture and sustainable management of natural resources”.  This theme is timely and relevant to the problems being faced by farmers in the country at present when productivity is low, prices of most export crops are at their lowest in decades and when poverty seems entrenched in our society.  Research in all aspects related to agricultural production is being challenged to come up with innovations which will enhance production, lower costs of production, introduce new crops and technologies and to produce quality crops which can penetrate speciality world markets.

 

3.         Mr. Vice Chancellor, over 50% of Tanzanians live below the international poverty line, that is, they earn less than one American dollar per day.  Our poverty is manifested in inadequate social services, poor economic infrastructure, malnutrition, poor health, substandard housing and et cetera.  There is no justification for the high rate of poverty in the country for our country is endowed with a lot of natural resources which we could exploit to make ourselves very much wealthier.

 

4.         In Agriculture, we are currently cultivating less than 20% of the available 43 million hactres of arable land and productivity for most crops is very low.  The country has diverse agro-climatic conditions which make it possible to grow a variety of crops ranging from temperate to tropical crops.  We are not taking full advantage of these conditions and we have continued to invest in the production of “traditional crops” even when there are no markets for them.  Changes in our attitudes and practices are long overdue.  In short, we need a revolution in agriculture.

 

5.         Mr Vice chancellor, I am aware that the University and the other research centres have done a lot of very useful research work in various aspects of agricultural production.  I have attended shows in which you exhibited new varieties of seeds which could increase productivity many fold, which are resistant to drought and to diseases and which are more nutritive than those being grown today.  During Nane-Nane 2001 which was held at Morogoro, many of us were impressed by work which had been done by Sokoine University of Agriculture on the use of Minjingu Phosphate.  Work has also been done on integrated pest management which can reduce pest infestation of crops to a substantial extent leading to reduced losses as well as greatly decreased use of expensive insecticides.  I have witnessed demonstrations in which some of the research findings were used with very rewarding results. Despite these commendable achievements, our people continue to go malnourished and poor.  Your conference must come up with practical recommendations on how research findings can be transferred from research institutions and their book shelves to be applied by the farmer.

 

6.                  Mr. Vice Chancellor, Although research in Tanzania has led to increased food supplies and crop yields through introduction and utilization of quality seeds and better crop and livestock husbandry techniques, poverty still remains a major problem among the rural population.  The challenge now is for researchers to develop strategies that more explicitly address the needs of the poor and to ensure that they reach and benefit the poor.  The Third Phase Government under the leadership of His Excellency Benjamin William Mkapa, gives poverty reduction the highest priority and after the reasonable success which has been recorded in the macro-economic parameters, we are confident that similar success can be achieved in poverty reduction.  The “Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper”, recognises agriculture as the sector which has the greatest potential for poverty reduction because over 80% of the population is dependent on agriculture for its livelihood and it is recognised that poverty is more endemic in the rural areas, where agriculture is the main or the only economic activity, than in the urban areas.  We also recognise the fact that poverty reduction will only be achieved through appropriate actions – a combination of appropriate activities the combined results of which will lead to increased production and productivity.  Such activities will depend on the implementation of researched recommendations.  We cannot simply scare or wish poverty away.  We must deliberately plan for its eradication and here, knowledge of what can be done is crucial.

 

7.               Mr. Vice chancellor, I am sure that we all agreed that poverty eradication, particularly in the rural areas, can only be achieved through greatly increased agricultural production.  Agricultural production must increase from the present rate of about 3.5% per annum to over 10% per annum.  This rate is achievable and research findings from various centres bears witness to this.

 

(a)               At present, production per unit area is very low and it could be increased up to fine fold by proper use of improved seeds, organic and inorganic fertilisers and a combination of integrated pest management and prudent use of pest control chemical methods and other proper crop husbandry measures.

 

(b)               It is estimated that pre and post harvest crop losses may be as high as 50 – 60% of production. Reduction of crop losses would greatly improve food security and increase crop surpluses for sale, thus reducing both food and income poverty. Here we need appropriate measures to reduce on farm losses as well as post harvest losses.

 

(c)               The prices of almost all traditional crops have plunged to very low levels, in some cases, prices paid to farmers do not cover production costs.  Measures need to be taken to reduce costs of production while at the same time increasing productivity and quality of the crops produced.

 

(d)               Steps are already underway to diversify the crops we produce for export but the pace is slow and uncertain.  We need to identify crops which can be produced in the country and which have reasonable demand in the world market and develop methods of producing them.

 

(e)               Most of our agriculture in rainfed.  We will need to increase the area under irrigation estimated at 160,000 ha. (or 16% of available areas for irrigation) by developing more land for irrigation and by rain harvesting.

 

(f)                 Finally, the smallholder has to be developed from the level of subsistence to become a commercial farmer while at the same time, attracting investments of medium and large scale farmers.

 

The challenge before researchers is to provide the nation with solutions to these questions and by so doing you will provide a solution to the poverty problem.  We will also need to protect the environment if production is to be sustained and here recommendations on appropriate management of our soils and water will be needed.

 

8.         Mr. Vice Chancellor, my Ministry will study the recommendations of your Conference very carefully and I promise that appropriate action will be taken on each of them.

 

 

 

            I now declare your Seminar Officially Open.

 

Thank you