Tanzania to adopt irrigation law to improve food security

Report
from EastAfrican
Published on 28 Sep 2013 View Original

By KIZITO MAKOYE Special Correspondent

IN SUMMARY

  • Analysts say the National Irrigation Act 2013 should give the country’s agriculture sector a new lease of life, in the face of changing weather patterns.

  • Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives Christopher Chiza told MPs that the new law would pave the way for the country to use its available land resources for the sustainable development of irrigation.

  • The country has 29.4 million hectares of land that could be irrigated, of which only 589,245 are currently under irrigation.

To protect farmers from the growing stresses of extreme weather and climate change, Tanzania’s parliament has passed a new law to promote better use of irrigation, hoping it will improve food security and reduce poverty.

Analysts say the National Irrigation Act 2013 — which was approved in August and awaits the president’s signature for it to come into force — should give the country’s agriculture sector a new lease of life, in the face of changing weather patterns.

Agriculture is the backbone of Tanzania’s economy. It accounts for more than one quarter of GDP, provides 85 per cent of exports and employs about 80 per cent of the workforce.

The country has 29.4 million hectares of land that could be irrigated, of which only 589,245 are currently under irrigation.

Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives Christopher Chiza told MPs that the new law would pave the way for the country to use its available land resources for the sustainable development of irrigation.

“We would like to tap every single drop of water available in our country and use it productively for irrigation purposes . By 2015, at least 25 per cent of food production should come from irrigated land,” he said.

In its introduction, the law says irrigation development is crucial since rain-fed agriculture is affected by drought and floods that will be exacerbated by climate change, impacting significantly on both the national economy and smallholder farmers’ vulnerability to food insecurity.

“To combat the effects of climate change, we need integrated strategies. One of them is investing in sustainable irrigation that recognises the role of farmers and the challenges they face in developing the sector,” said Damian Gabagambi, who teaches agriculture at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro.

Despite the government’s efforts to bolster agriculture, Tanzania’s food and cash crop production has been undermined by a lack of irrigation infrastructure and poor management of existing irrigation schemes.

The National Irrigation Act strengthens the National Irrigation Policy of 2010, which had remained toothless as there were no legislative tools to implement it. That should now change.

The new law, among other things, establishes the Irrigation Commission, a national body with the mandate to co-ordinate, promote and regulate irrigation activities across the country.

The legislation also paves the way for the formation of an Irrigation Development Fund to help irrigation schemes, many of which are marred in financial woes.

The fund’s monies — to include both government and other sources — will be used to finance irrigation activities carried out by individual farmers and investors, through loans or grants.

The minister said the government is now implementing 39 irrigation schemes on 16,710 hectares, using drip irrigation technology at a cost of Tsh677.5 billion ($400 million).

But once the Irrigation Commission is up and running, it would like to establish more than 1,000 new schemes, depending on the availability of funds.