With a population of over 61 million, agriculture accounts for more than a quarter of Tanzania’s gross domestic product and employs approximately 64 percent of the country’s workforce. Agriculture is unquestionably the backbone of the nation. Yet the country’s agri-food sector faces significant challenges as the growing threats of climate change loom large. Prolonged droughts and unpredictable weather patterns resulting from a changing climate threaten the livelihoods of farmers across the country.
In response to these challenges, Tanzania has prioritized the transformation of its agricultural sector through initiatives like the Building a Better Tomorrow investment program. The program emphasizes the role of youth and women in building more sustainable food systems that foster resilient livelihoods. However, programs like Building a Better Tomorrow require commitments not only from the Tanzanian government, but also from stakeholders across sectors.
Fostering partnerships for impact
To bring these stakeholders together and strengthen cooperation for sustainable agri-food systems and livelihoods in Tanzania, MEDA organized a panel discussion and networking event in Dar es Salaam on September 26, 2023. The event, which focused on investing in agri-food for sustainable development in Tanzania, brought together a diverse and accomplished group of over 100 people who share a mutual passion for the future of agriculture and food production in the country. Representatives from Tanzania’s Ministries of Agriculture and Industry and Trade, the High Commission of Canada in Tanzania, financial institutions, development partners, agriculture and business associations, agro-processors, and more were in attendance.
In his opening remarks, Canada’s High Commissioner to Tanzania, Kyle Nunas, highlighted the impact of partnerships by sharing the transformative journey of a maize milling business located in the Dodoma region of central Tanzania. With the support received from Canada, MEDA began working with the business, known as Chamwino Super Sembe Supply, in 2017 through the Strengthening Small Business Value Chains (SSBVC) project. This partnership enabled the business to improve its financial management, create decent jobs, and upgrade its milling machines to increase productivity. It also strengthened the enterprise’s own partnerships – supporting Chamwino to work with a number of smallholder farmers as suppliers of maize.
“You can see from this one story, that there is so much potential in this country. Entrepreneurship is found in the fibre of Tanzanians. And this entrepreneurship has the potential to create jobs, boost revenue, and ensure equitable market participation. Your presence serves as a resounding testament to your unwavering commitment to driving economic growth, and tackling the issue of food insecurity, through the power of collaboration and strategic partnerships. And honestly, being able to see the differences that these partnerships make in the lives of everyday Tanzanians, is probably the best part of my job.”Kyle Nunas, Canada’s High Commissioner to Tanzania
The importance of partnerships in the agri-food market system was further stressed by Geoffrey Kirenga, CEO of Southern Agricultural Corridor (SAGCOT) Center. Kirenga noted that agri-food is critical to job creation and to capitalizing on the potential Tanzania has as a food basket to feed its nation, neighboring countries, and other places around the world.
“It is important for stakeholders from various sectors to continue putting emphasis on agriculture despite climate challenges,” said Kirenga. “We need to invest, and this must be done by all, the government and private sector.”
Envisioning a sustainable agri-food future
In light of climate challenges, there are also opportunities emerging for entrepreneurs in Tanzania’s agri-food system. The event’s panel discussion brought together researchers and entrepreneurs alike, including Hadija Jabiri, CEO of GBRI Business Solutions, Diana Orembe, CEO of NovFeed, and Dr. Regina E. Kapinga, Head of Advocacy and Resource Mobilization at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, to discuss these developing challenges and opportunities. Among them, Tanzania has the potential to excel in the areas of horticulture and aquaculture. There are also opportunities to advance in the production of biofertilizer from waste products as a means for waste management and restoration of soil fertility, along with cassava production to curb food insecurity.
To connect these stakeholders together in pursuit of the common goal of building a more sustainable agri-food system, guidance from government bodies is needed. Dr. Hashil T. Abdallah, Permanent Secretary of Tanzania’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, emphasized this in his closing remarks, sharing that policies and laws to improve the investment and business environment within Tanzania are key.
Transformative changes rarely happen in silos but through the coming together of diverse networks like those seen in Tanzania’s agri-food system. These connections will play a critical role as Tanzania faces the evolving challenges of climate change and seeks to build food security and livelihood solutions that are sustainable, equitable, and just.
“May this event be a catalyst for forging fruitful connections, fostering dynamic exchanges, and laying the groundwork for the transformative changes we aspire to achieve”.Dr. Dorothy Nyambi, MEDA’s President and CEO