Increasing productivity of Africa’s farms not only would reduce the levels of hunger and malnutrition, it also would increase incomes.
Tanzania is 95 percent food self-sufficient, but it is located in a difficult place.
“Our biggest problem in the country is the neighborhood,” Mr. Kikwete said.
To its north, Kenya has endured three to four years of drought that has forced it to look to Tanzania for food. Parts of Somalia are in the grip of a famine, while South Sudan faces significant food shortages.
The high demand has strained Tanzania’s food supply and pushed domestic prices sky high.
Mr. Kikwete sees in this challenge an opportunity. He has instructed the Ministry of Agriculture to increase production of food, particularly corn and rice, to have enough to feed Tanzanians, as well as export.
His government set up the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania in a part of the country that gets the most rain and has ideal soil and climate conditions. If all goes according to plan, the corridor will create 420,000 jobs and produce an annual income of $1.2 billion.
“If we can succeed, we will lift millions and millions of people out of poverty very quickly,” Mr. Kikwete said.
Agriculture is not high on the list of priorities for most international donors. Two decades ago, they gave $18 billion to Africa for the agriculture sector. That dropped to $3 billion three years ago, and has crept up to about $6 billion today.
Tanzania has turned to the private sector to supplement the international community’s contributions.
The G-8 announced over the weekend a “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition” to accelerate the flow of private capital to African agriculture.
President Obama separately announced that 45 private-sector companies had committed to invest more than $3 billion in agricultural projects and programs that will help millions of small-scale farmers in Africa.
Mr. Kikwete is eager to get a U.S. commitment for a second phase.
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© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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