By Kizito Makoye, Dar es Salaam – Tanzania government has joined forces with South Korea’s investors to implement a 50-million dollars project in which 100,000 hectors of unused arable land are developed into large-scale irrigation farms. According to the director general of Tanzania’s state-run Rufiji Basin Development Authority(RUBADA) Aloyce Masanja, various food crops including rice paddies will be grown in a move aimed at boosting the country’s food security.
According to Masanja experts from Korea are already working in the fields setting up irrigation systems in the valley located slightly over 100 kilometres south of commercial capital of Dar es Salaam. “We are very excited especially with the coming of the Koreans to develop the Rufiji basin, which we consider itself as a gold mine of Tanzania,” Masanja said in an interview.
He said area is being developed jointly between Korea Rural Community Cooperation, which is the public entity in South Korea and RUBADA which is also a public entity. According to Masanja pilot farms are being set up so that Tanzania farmers can emulate modern ways of growing crops under the supervision of experts from Korea. The farms are going to be for commercial purposes, and also as learning areas for Tanzania local farmers. The RUBADA CEO said 50 million dollars has been dished out in the form of grants to Tanzania government. “We say once we have the product first priority is to have sufficient domestic food security but if we have excess then we could sell it abroad.” he stressed.
“The land will primarily be used for paddy fields to produce rice through irrigation farming. We will also grow other crops such as maize, cassava and simsim in upland areas,” he said.In order to defuse growing criticism from poor farmers in the area, who think that their land is being taken away, RUBADA has embarked on awareness raising campaign so that the villagers know the benefit of
this multi-million dollars project. “We know it is a village land but we have laws in this country… we can not accept land to remain idle because the villagers are saying it is their land….that is not
proper….. If the Koreans are coming and they are ready to give us funds to help farmers and then export these resources commercially that is preference for me”.
The basin, the biggest in the country, covers eight regions, almost one third of the country. It has a total of 622,000 hectares all of which are potential for irrigation purposes. The coming in of South
Koreans for the 100,000 hectares is considered by analysts to be just one of the bigger things from one of the emerging global economic giants.
According to RUBADA feasibility studies, which had been carried out last year, suggest that the earmarked land is suitable for paddy irrigation. The latest report shows that the land under irrigation
would bring total paddy irrigation in the country to 1million hectares from present 905,000 hectares.
The basin which is traversed by one of the biggest rivers in the country, Rufiji River, is under RUBADA and was established through an Act of Parliament Number 5 of 1975.
Tanzanian government is flatly optimistic that the Koreans will help it in realizing its objective of attaining a green revolution through its agricultural policy known locally as Kilimo Kwanza, agriculture first.
It is planned that out of 100,000 hectares, 50,000 would be provided to Tanzanians, through the supervision of the South Koreans, for use in irrigation-based, scientific agricultural development.
And the remaining 50,000 hectares would be used by South Koreans in setting up agro-based industries. One of the main objectives of such agro-based industries is to add value to the country’s varied agricultural produce that include fruits.
That Tanzania is now busy, seeking investors interested in putting their money for agricultural development in the basin just goes to show the government’s commitment in ensuring that it succeeds in the realization of its Kilimo Kwanza agricultural policy. Apart from the basin’s high potential for irrigation, 246,500 hectares are not only fertile and thereby suitable for any agricultural
development, but are also exposed to reliable rainfall. RUBADA CEO said under the Tanzania/South South Korea agreement, the latter is required to use 10,000 hectares for demonstrating to Tanzanian farmers on how to irrigate, scientifically, paddy fields.
Countries like China, South Korea and the arid Gulf states are buying large swathes of land in Africa and Asia to secure food supplies. Critics say this is worsening food security in countries parcelling out land, especially in Africa. Tanzania has 44 million hectares of arable land, of which the government says about 10.8 million is in use.
Kizito Makoye is a journalist based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania