TZ, aid agencies clash over land, development

Dr. Sinare Y. Sinare

STAY OUT: Agricultural Council of Tanzania, Chairman, Dr. Sinare Y. Sinare cautions aid agencies not to hinder development

The Agricultural Council of Tanzania (ACT) has warned international aid organizations not to interfere with government efforts of transforming the country into becoming a regional breadbasket, saying Tanzania shouldn’t be held hostage.

In a brutally open response to the recent release of ActionAid Tanzania’s scathing report alleging Bagamoyo EcoEnergy (BEE) an agro-processing company promoting modern sugarcane farming in Tanzania, in partnership with the government is grabbing land from the people, the council strongly disputed the document as incorrect and unfounded.

In its latest report titled “Pulling back from the Brink: Stopping Eco Energy from Land Grab in Tanzania,” published early this week, ActionAid Tanzania faults the Tanzanian government, and BEE for pushing citizens out of their communities in the name of ‘development’.

The report has been subsequently dismissed by Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlement and the Presidential Delivery Bureau (PDB) on ground that the research was highly flawed. The report details cases showing Agro EcoEnergy has pushed out rural communities in order to lease 20,000 hectares of land.

ActionAid in its latest media communiqué said it was launching a public petition to stop the exercise.

Addressing the press, ACT Chairman Dr Sinare Y. Sinare made it clear the council does not support international NGOs (like ActionAid) that want to turn the nation into a hostage and food importer.

“We don’t support the idea of humiliating small scale farmers. We have requested a full report for comparison considering that we were involved during the preliminary findings however we were not involved in the final report.” He said

Sinare stressed Tanzania can only develop into an economic giant if agricultural sector fully transformed. The chairman however acknowledged some development partners and locals weren’t happy with several government initiatives to improve the sector thus the current disagreement.

Agriculture sector accounts for 27.8 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Today, approximately 80 per cent of Tanzanians are employed by the sector, which accounts for half of the national income and three quarters of the merchandise exports from the East African nation.

“Agriculture sector is at a better place to push for economic growth and poverty reduction 40 times other sectors including natural gas and tourism,” Sinare said.

Baga

Disputed project

He explained the project to be implemented in Bagamoyo is for the betterment of the sector as well as assuring market for small scale sugarcane farmers.

He said since independence there had been no new sugar plantations. The demand for the product has increased from 100,000 metric tonnes to 480, 000 metric tonnes, however the local production does not correspond to the demand.

“This automatically results to sugar import. A consistent sugar import means the nation is absolutely exporting its labour force,” he noted supporting the concept for investors bringing in technology and create a market for local farmers.
Meanwhile the council advised the government to have a national comprehensive program for surveying and mapping land using digital satellite technology as part of reducing land disputes.

He said the land potions need to be fairly and legally distributed or marked for human settlement, farming or livestock to avoid confusion.
ACT Executive Director Janet Bitegeko said the long awaited agricultural bank is expected to start operation as early as this August. The bank, according to the executive will potentially help small scale farmers to attain soft loans to improve their farming