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'A disgrace that we have to import food': Tanzania, June 1981 modernise farming methods. That is president Julius Nyerere's message to Tanzania's farmers. He insists the country must become self-sufficient. New African reports on the realities behind the president's remarks.

THE TANZANIAN PRESIDENT, Julius Nyerere, recently told his countrymen they were facing "a serious food shortage" as a result of floods and droughts during the past four years. He said this while addressing a mass rally to mark the fourth anniversary of the merger of Zanzibar's Afro Shirazi Party and the mainland's Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) which created the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution).

Nyerere said that last year, Tanzania spent $83.3m on food imports. This was in addition to aid and loans received from friendly nations. The president said it was a disgrace that the country should depend on imported food, and called on farmers to modernise farming methods in order to increase agricultural output and lead the country to self-sufficiency.

In February last year, the then minister for agriculture, John Malecela, warned Tanzanians that the country would run out of food. He said: "We must caution the people that there is not enough food for next season and that includes cash crops, groundnuts, sunflower and caster seeds."


According to the National Milling Corporation, a total of 194,306 tonnes of food crops had been bought by December last year, compared with 345,003 tonnes purchased during the same period the previous year.

During 1980, 94,575 tonnes of maize were bought against 139,425 tonnes bought in 1970. During 1977-78, 200,000 tonnes of maize were bought compared with 130,000 tonnes bought during 1976-77. The average requirement for the whole country is 200,000 tonnes of maize a year.

Between 1977-78, 34,500 tonnes of wheat were bought against 27,000 tonnes bought during 1976-77. Rice purchased in 1977-78 amounted to 31,000 tonnes compared to 19,000 tonnes in 1976-77.

Tanzania is an agricultural country in which about 17 million people, representing about 96% of the population, live in rural areas. Ninety per cent of these engage in agriculture which provides the largest source of cash income and foreign exchange. The agricultural sector is also the country's biggest employer. But Tanzania is a nation of peasant farmers whose cultivation is based on manual labour, using hand tools. Consequently, production is low. Large-scale farming is limited to estates producing coffee, tea, and tobacco. State farms concentrate on wheat, rice, sugar, sisal and livestock.

President Nyerere has said that it was time for peasants to discard the primitive methods of farming inherited from their grandfathers, and engage instead in modern farming by using fertilisers and other advanced techniques. Only then could the country produce more cash and food crops, the president added.

Under the government's Five-Year Development Plan, agriculture, which will receive second priority, has been allocated $5bn, 12.5% of total investment. The aim is to make this sector produce sufficient food to feed the population, increase cash crops and provide enough raw materials for the country's industries. Commenting on the present shortage of essential goods, the president called on party and government leaders to ensure that what was available was properly distributed to the people.

Referring to those people who are "sabotaging the country's economy" through corruption, theft, and smuggling, Nyerere said the ruling party's Central Committee would investigate social evils so that appropriate measures could be taken. "These evil people live with us, they are known to us, we eat with them, we know them."

He added: "It is not enough for people to simply grumble and make general complaints to leaders. Investigate and bring forth some evidence which will help leaders to take action."

He warned that investigations by the Central Committee would go on for a long time "because there is evidence that there are many dirty things going on in the country".

Since the Central Committee meeting on 14 January, a cabinet member and the chairman of the Investment Bank and its manager have been sacked. The general manager of Air Tanzania has also been dismissed in the war against corruption.

What has happened since

Tanzania, like most African countries, still imports food. The Old Man must be turning in his grave.
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Title Annotation:Retrospective
Author:Nyerere, Julius
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6TANZ
Date:Nov 1, 2010
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