East Africa: Boost for Agriculture
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
THE fight to secure food and income for millions of small holder farmers in eastern Africa, a region that experiences severe food shortages from time to time, is poised to get additional ammunition with the construction of a science research block by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister; Honourable Mizengo Pinda recently, is expected to be completed by end of October this year and will facilitate the institute’s research for development activities in 17 countries found in eastern and central Africa.
Speaking at the foundation-stone-laying ceremony, Honourable Pinda noted that the building would help in generating much-needed scientific research to provide solutions to problems of food security; therefore improving the lives of millions of smallholder farmers in the country and the region. “Research plays an important role in increasing productivity by developing cost effective socially acceptable knowledge and technologies that are suitable under prevailing environments,” he said.
“Therefore, the importance of agriculture research should be emphasized.” He noted that in Tanzania, agriculture is the backbone of its economy and played an important role in economic development and improving the livelihood of its people. He said statistics showed that in 2009, the agriculture sector contributed 24.6 per cent towards the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and during the 2009/2010 farming season, the sector produced 12.32 million tonnes of food against an estimated demand of about 11.15 million tonnes, leading to food self-sufficiency of about 110.6 per cent.
However, he said overall productivity is still very low and the country had not achieved its goals on food security and poverty alleviation by ensuring adequate and surplus food production, for local consumption and for export. Furthermore, he noted there are still more challenges ahead in the pursuit for better food self sufficiency and poverty alleviation posed by the increasing population coupled with global warming.