PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete has dedicated his latest Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law from a Canadian university to all Tanzanians and especially small holder farmers who are striving to improve their livelihood through agriculture.
Mr Kikwete is the first Tanzanian to be awarded the degree in more than 100 years of the existence of Toronto’s Guelph University, famous for research in agriculture and animal diseases.
In his acceptance speech after the award on Friday, President Kikwete said 75 per cent of Tanzanians live in rural areas where their main activity is agriculture, noting that even urban dwellers’ livelihoods depend on the economic activity in many other ways.
“Agriculture provides us with food, raw materials for our industries, foreign exchange and employment. Agriculture contributes 25 per cent of the gross domestic product, 34 per cent of foreign exchange and 95 per cent of our food and also employs 75 per cent of our people.
In a nutshell, our economic development and our people’s wellbeing depend on agriculture,” noted the President. A statement released yesterday by the Directorate of Presidential Communications, said Mr Kikwete received the degree during a ceremony in War Memorial Hall, followed by a public lecture on agriculture, food production and innovation.
President Kikwete said “with the importance of agriculture to Tanzania and the rest of the world, the sector remains dependent on nature, with less productivity. “Allow me to give statistics to explain this argument. In Tanzania, one hectare of maize produces 1.3 tonnes, the average for Africa is 1.1tonnes, in China 5.7 and Canada its 10.
The same applies for cotton and rice.” The President also gave reasons for poor agricultural productivity in Africa as poor technology that lowers productivity where the use of the hand hoe is the major equipment used.
He also said small holder farmers depend on the hoe, with little or no irrigation, no improved seed varieties, less reliance on quality fertilizers and pesticides. He added that many farmers were not empowered with the required modern knowledge on how to improve agriculture and had little knowledge on how to access credit from financial institutions.
“Look at these statistics. On average, a Tanzanian farmer uses 13kg of fertilizers per hectare, the average for Africa is 8kgs per hectare, yet in Holland its 57kg per hectare. This lack of access to fertilizer is due to the high costs for farmers,” he said.
After giving the general picture, President Kikwete explained the steps taken by his government to confront the situation including starting the Agricultural Sector Development Programme - Ministry (ASDP),Kilimo Kwanza and Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SACGOT).
He explained how the government increased the agricultural budget from 233.2bn/- in 2005/6 to 1.1trn/- currently, how the subsidy fund programme was increased from 8.5bn/- in 2005/6 to 157.8bn/- currently. Importation of tractors has increased from 5,308 in 2005/6 to 14,668 by 2012/13.
The university announced on its website that Mr Kikwete, the fourth president of Tanzania, was being recognised for his contributions as a politician, negotiator and humanitarian. It said President Kikwete had helped lead efforts in Africa to improve agriculture and ensure food safety.
He has become the continent’s pioneer and spokesperson for the “Grow Africa” initiative, and has promoted a green revolution – Agriculture First – to update farming practices and increase productivity.
A champion of community development, education and literacy, he has fought corruption and promoted women’s rights, particularly by improving access to education and health care. “President Kikwete truly exemplifies what it means and what it takes to build a better planet,” said Kevin Hall, vicepresident (research).
Hall led the honorary degree nomination and has met with Kikwete several times to discuss agriculture, food security, water and health in East Africa. “President Kikwete has a steadfast commitment to helping his people, country and continent.
He is a model and inspiration for our University as we strive to improve life in Canada and beyond,” Hall said. The university is establishing a Guelph East Africa Institute to help solve regional problems.
The institute, which will be located in Tanzania, will bring together academia, business, government and NGOs to support research and teaching in food, health, water, education, environment and community.
Some issues facing East Africa include rising food prices, lack of reliable food and water, chronic diseases, climate change, pollution and urbanisation.