This article has some information about my region. Like it says, most families in my region depend on cashew trees to survive, but this year we had very little rain, so the cashew trees aren't producing, which means people won't be making money this year. So I don't really know what's going to happen. Cashews/farming are the main source of income for almost everyone in my village. If there is a shortage of rain this year I think there is going to be a major food shortage.
Mtwara strategies to counter potential food shortage
For a region that has 88 per cent of its population depending on agriculture for food and income generation, any situation that might lead to the underdevelopment of the sector is something they can’t afford to tolerate.
With an area of about 16,720 kilometres, Mtwara harbours around 1.3 million people most of them very poor. Only one per cent of this population involves in fishing and less than one per cent keeps livestock. Majority grow cashewnuts as an income earner.
According to the office of the Regional Commissioner, a food analysis done early this year shows that Nanyumbu district faces food shortage to about 219 tons in the early months. Generally, the region needs a total of 374,000 tons to feed the above mentioned population. Many a time the region sufficiently produces its own food with surplus.
However, this year’s shortage in Nanyunbu and Masasi districts is attributed to delay of 2008/09 seasonal rains. As a result of these crops; like maize, rice and cassava have been adversely affected and in some areas they have dried altogether. Because of this, the region predicts food shortage beginning October this year.
Nevertheless, government through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) gave the district of Nanyumbu 246 tons of maize grains to help curb the situation. “Of the mentioned amount, 148 tons were distributed free of charge to the public, that is unable to buy their own food and the rest were sold at 50/- per kilo to those who can afford,” says Mtwara Regional Commissioner, Mr Anatory Tarimo.
He adds that the authorities have urged the business community to buy food from areas with surplus and resell it in those with shortages. Likewise, the region identified the need for food grains to cater for those farms affected by drought. According to him, the Prime Minister’s office has disbursed about 2.6 bn/- to Nanyunbu district and as a result, 1.3 tons of Macia millet grains in addition to 42 tons of cassava stems have been procured.
Moreover, Masasi district council has procured and distributed 3.2 tons of millet grains and 450 pieces of cassava stems. Otherwise, the region has plans in place to revolutionize agriculture and priority areas identified include; market development for farm and livestock produce, food processing and packaging, use of technology particularly hand-driven tractors, pesticide spraying pumps, tractors and other farm implements.
According to the Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS), Mr Yusuf Athuman Matumbo, in order to attain this kind of revolution, his region has the following strategies worked out: Every family should have at least one and a half acres of food crops depending on the availability of rainfall and arable nature of the soil.
He says every farmer needs to use big hoes (they natively call them Ngwamba) and develop the urge to use modern farm implements such as power tillers and heavy duty tractors. “Villages should enact by-laws guiding modern farming and every village should make sure that youth get pieces of land for farming,” he points out adding that wards in each council need to have ‘study farms’.
He also says agricultural officers should make it a time table to visit farmers in his or her duty area. Moreover, in cashewnut, which is a major economic crop in the region, subsidies in terms of fertilizers have been scaled up from four bags in 2005 to six in 2008. In farming seasons beginning 2006 to 2008, cashewnuts farmers were supplied with 6.4 bn/- worth of insecticide and pesticide subsidies, that accrued from five per cent of revenues collected from the export of raw cashewnuts.
This year’s farming season, from five per cent of the exported cashew- nuts, the region is to get a total of 1.9 bn/-. According to authorities, for the 2009/10 already 10 companies that will procure and distribute farm inputs for cashewnuts have been identified. However, it is predicted that the availability of farm inputs in Masasi district will be a bit tricky due to the on-going management conflict of the farm input fund, that led to the refunding of the members contributions.
Production of cash crops in the region has been on the increase season after season. For example, cashewnut production has risen from 38,000 tons in 2004 to 62,000 tons last year. For the 2008/09 season, production reached above 50,000 tons amounting to 34bn/-. Cashewnut has surely proved to be a major income earner for people of Mtwara but recently, during his short visit of the region, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda challenged them on this income.
He said this is big money but it should be seen in the development of region. “When one moves around this money should be visible from an individual perspective to the region as a whole,” says Mr Pinda. Contributing to the issue of food shortage, Mr Pinda says seriousness is needed on the production of food crops, particularly drought resistant ones such as cassava and millet.
He says irrigation farming need to be given priority as it ensures constant supply of farm produce all year round. Another area of possible promotion is fishing. Since 2006 to last year, about 262 tons of fish worth about 193m/- have been sold. There are plenty of potentials in the industry and plans should be put in place to support the industry.