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Statement by Hon. Charles Keenja (MP), Tanzania Minister for Agriculture and Food Security at the Twenty Fifth Session of the Governing Council of IFAD

19th - 20th February, 2002


Mr. Chairman,
IFAD President,
Distinguished Governors,
Honourable Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Mr. Chairman, I feel honoured to participate and to address this Twenty Fifth Session of the Governing Council. On behalf of the United Republic of Tanzania and on my own behalf, I wish to congratulate you for being elected the Chairman of this Session. I am confident that under your able direction, the Session will achieve its objectives.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to take this opportunity to commend IFAD for the excellent work it has been doing since its establishment in 1977. The Fund has been a close and a trusted development partner for Tanzania for which we are most appreciative. I would also like to complement the management of IFAD, under the able and dedicated leadership of its president, Mr. Lennart Bage, for managing the Fund professionally and in a manner which has enabled it to carry out its mandate satisfactorily. I also wish to commend all member States for their support to IFAD without which it would not have been able to carry out its objectives successfully.

Mr. Chairman, this session of the Council is taking place at a time when the Least Developed Countries are facing immense challenges. People in the developing countries still live in abject poverty, which is the root cause of hunger, malnutrition, ignorance, disease and deprivation. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the scourge of HIV/AIDS is threatening to wipe out most of the achievements gained in the past. Like this was not enough, the Region is threatened by other diseases such as Ebola. The Twenty Fifth Session of the Council is also taking place at a time when world market prices for most export crops from the Least Developed Countries are at their lowest for several decades, a fact which is impacting negatively on our efforts to combat poverty as well as on our economies as a whole. This situation can be improved through appropriate interventions within the individual countries and the removal of protectionist practices at the global market place.

In 1995 the World Summit on Social Development held in Copenhagen set a goal of halving the proportion of population living in absolute poverty by 2015. To those of us who live in developing countries where most of the poor are found, the goal of reducing poverty and the suffering which goes with it, is a very noble goal. In Tanzania it is estimated that about half of the population of about 32 million people are living under absolute poverty, that is, earning less than one dollar a day. The most vulnerable are women and children, a fact which has far reaching adverse effects on the development of the country.

We know that poverty and deprivation that goes with it, can drastically be reduced because we have abundant natural resources: a population of over 32 million people, over 43 million ha. of arable land, over one million hactres which can be irrigated, a lot of water resources and usually favourable weather. Only about 16% of the land resources are being utilised. Despite these resources the work which needs to be done to half the proportion of people living under extreme poverty by 2015 is enormous and the resources required are of an equal magnitude. But it can be done if a package of conditions is met. What we need is a revolution in agriculture and related activities in the rural areas where most of the poor live.

Over the last decade the allocation of resources to agriculture and to rural development by the Government and our development partners has dwindled to a quarter of what it was. The Government has formulated the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy and Rural Development Strategy whose central goal is the reduction of poverty and the improvement of the living conditions of our people. The Government is committed to mobilise the necessary resources for the implementation of the programmes which are being prepared under the strategies. We continue to count on the support of our development partners without which it will take much longer to reduce the proportion of our people living under extreme poverty. We look upon IFAD to use its experience and vast resources to team with us in our war against poverty.

I wish to believe that this session of the IFAD Council will mark the beginning of a new era in which all member countries of the Fund will work in partnership to wage war against poverty its adverse consequences which manifest themselves in hunger, malnutrition, ignorance and disease.

Mr. Chairman, Tanzania is a beneficiary of IFAD development assistance. Since its establishment, IFAD has identified and supported ten development projects in Tanzania of which five are currently being implemented. What is most significant about IFAD assistance is that it has always been directed towards the most vulnerable communities in the rural areas of both the Mainland and Zanzibar and have always been planned and implemented with the participation of the beneficiaries and other stakeholders which ensures commitment and sustainability. IFAD projects have empowered rural communities to better manage their resource base, improve their incomes and food security status and enhance access of the poorest to basic services.

Mr. Chairman, agriculture is the most important sector in the Tanzanian economy accounting for about 50% of GDP and 66% of foreign exchange earnings. Over 70% of the population lives in rural areas where it depends on agriculture for its livelihood. It is this population which produces about 94% of the food consumed in the Country, most of the raw materials used in manufacturing and most of the export crops. Yet poverty is most entrenched in the rural areas. Any attempts to reduce poverty must centre on improving agriculture and related services so as to enhance rural incomes and food security.

Mr. Chairman, over the past decade, agriculture has been growing at a rate of about 3.5% per year, a rate slightly higher than the population growth rate of 2.8% per annum, with annual variations dependent on the weather. Vision 2025 and the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy recommend a sector growth rate of 11% as the one which will have the required effect on poverty alleviation and economic growth. Such a growth rate is feasible because the Country endowed with abundant resources, including over 43 million hactres of arable land, over 1 million hactres of irrigable land (in both cases less than 10% of the land is under utilisation) and a population of over 30 million people, warm weather and so on.

The Agricultural Sector Development Strategy formulated toward the end of 2002 aims at removing impediments to agricultural growth and putting in place a conducive environment which will make it possible for the available agricultural potential to be exploited. To this end the necessary policy framework and the political will are in place. What is required is something akin to a revolution in agriculture, a package of interventions aimed at eliminating all major constraints applied simultaneously, the sum total of the effects of which will bring about the required impact. Piecemeal interventions, through small isolated projects may bring about limited improvements to small communities but they will not bring about the major changes envisaged.

Mr. Chairman, performance of the agricultural sector is constrained by a number of factors including low production and productivity due to inappropriate technology, inadequate research and extension services, dependence on rainfall, low utilisation of improved technologies, poor infrastructure especially roads, and weak network of inputs and output markets. These problems are further compounded by lack of financial services in rural areas, low and declining prices of most export commodities and protectionist tendencies in developed countries, limited processing capacity and technologies and the HIV/AIDS pandemic which threatens to wipe out gains achieved over the years. These problems must be addressed together and not each in isolation, if the required impact is to be achieved.

Mr. Chairman, the problems facing Least Developed Countries is lack of large amounts of resources required to bring about and sustain the changes required and this is very frustrating to governments which know what to do but cannot afford to do it. The late Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, former president of Tanzania, likened this situation to one in which a doctor diagnosed a disease and he knows its cure but leaves the patient to die because his hands have become paralysed. We must find a way out of this paralysis because it is the only way in which we can reduce poverty in our countries while bringing about enhanced economic change.

Mr. Chairman, the Government has been striving to put in place a conducive environment for private sector led agricultural growth which includes a facilitative tax regime which has removed almost all taxes on agricultural inputs and products and a participatory system which brings together stakeholders to discuss measures intended to improve agriculture. In addition, the Government is committed to set aside increased resources for improving agriculture. Our development partners have indicated willingness to co-operate with the Government in the implementation of the Agricultural Sector Development Programme which is currently under preparation.

Mr. Chairman, in the economic reforms which the Government has been undertaking, the role of the private sector as a provider of investment resources, technology and services has been given prominence. The fact that the private sector is still young and lacking in resources and experience has not, however, been given the recognition it needs. The private sector needs to be supported and empowered so that it may grow to fully take up the prominent role which the Government would like it to have.

Mr. Chairman, the agricultural Sector Development Strategy is a major component of the recently prepared Rural Development and the Poverty Reduction Strategies. The Strategies identify critical areas which will provide a foundation for developing commercialisation of Tanzania agriculture, accelerate agricultural growth and pull the majority of the rural poor out of abject poverty.

The major features of the Strategy include;

(i) Strengthening the institutional framework for agricultural development.

(ii) Creating a favourable policy and legal environment for commercial agriculture.

(iii) Improving support services by both public and private sectors.

(iv) Strengthening market efficiency for agricultural inputs and outputs.

(v) Creating a conducive administrative and legal environment for the sector by reviewing and harmonising legislation and streamlining various procedures to improve efficiency and transparency in the provision of services.

Mr. Chairman, in order to operationalise the ASDS, the Government of Tanzania in collaboration with stakeholders is preparing an Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP). The programme is expected to provide details on implementation modalities of ASDS, costs for various activities and provide the institutional framework for managing the programme in a co-ordinated way.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to bring to your attention the fact that, transformation of rural areas, into prosperous regions, requires concerted efforts by both developing and developed countries as well as International Organisations. This is a process which calls for patience, determination, strategies, programmes, resources and above all a focused vision and commitment, to bring about broad based, people centred development.

Mr. Chairman, before ending my note let me point out that, I have learned that, IFAD is considering to hold a Regional Workshop on strategic Framework for Poverty alleviation for the Eastern and Southern African region in Tanzania in May, 2002. May I take this opportunity on behalf of the Tanzanian Government to thank you for choosing Tanzania as the venue for this important workshop. We warmly welcome the President and all the participants to Tanzania and we will do all in our powers to ensure its success.

Mr. Chairman, once again, may I thank you for availing me this opportunity to address this session. May I as well thank all distinguished participants for listening to me.

 

Thank you.