Jumanne Maghembe, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives of Tanzania

The ambitious Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) plan is now a hot topic at the World Economic Forum (WEF) here and has won massive support from development partners with many more willing to come on board.

This was manifested on Friday when some leading European countries, the US, Japan and some multinational companies saw an urgent need to support the programme, that aims at boosting agricultural productivity in Tanzania and the wider region. The US Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, Mr Robert Hormats, the Crown Prince of Norway, Haakon Magnus and over 80 CEOs from multinationals attended the working lunch.

The programme run through the public-private partnership model also focuses on promoting clusters of profitable agricultural farming and businesses, with major benefits for small-scale farmers and local communities. The Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, who is accompanying President Jakaya Kikwete to the economic forum, was upbeat about the support garnered so far.

The meeting was specifically designed to discuss challenges on food security, water, energy and climatic change. “We are happy that we got a rare opportunity to present our case at the forum for support on SAGCOT,” he said. He told the “Daily News on Saturday” yesterday that the World Bank leads the pack and has agreed to provide 60 million US dollars (about 91bn/-) to the SAGCOT Catalytic Fund.

Others are the US government through its foreign development agency, USAID which has contributed 12 million dollars (about 19bn/-) and Japanese International Co-operation Agency (JICA), which is studying the proposal but has shown big interest to support the project, JICA President, Ms Sadako Ogata who wields a lot of influence in Asia and at the global scene in general, paid President Kikwete a courtesy call on Thursday at his hotel. Details from their meeting could not be known immediately.

The minister said that climate change has negative effects on water sources unlike in the past whereby changes could be experienced over a long period. “In 1944, for example, Lake Jipe in Kilimanjaro Region dried up and farmers had to suffer dearly. It’s about 44 years now and we have not experienced such situation.

So, our concern at the moment is that these changes are unpredictable unlike in the past,” he said. He said the government has taken serious measures such as a research on variety of seeds that can adapt to different situations, as well as the execution of Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) programme which he said has made positive impact on the agricultural yield.

He cited the example of the Kilombero Plantations Limited (KPL) in Morogoro Region wheat project which has partnered with 1,600 small-scale farmers who can now produce eight tonnes per acre. Currently, the world’s highest yield is nine tonnes per acre. He said the target is to reach 5,000 small-holder farmers by the end of next year.

It’s on record that some countries have been impressed by the SAGCOT model and want to adopt it. These include Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Mexico, Ghana and Indonesia. The Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Ms Sophia Kaduma, Bank of Tanzania Governor Prof Benno Ndulu and SAGCOT CEO Mr Dunstan Mruttu, are also in the strong team accompanying the president who flies out here on Saturday for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to attend the African Union (AU) summit.

By GABRIEL NDERUMAKI, Tanzania Daily News

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