Longido: Where milk, honey flow in rivers
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SOME of the communities, which have led a nomadic life for centuries, have eventually agreed to settle down, till the land, raise cattle in herds and take their children to school.

The communities have also been trained on how to work on farms and raise hybrid cattle. The communities in Longido District, including the Maasai, have now embraced farming initiatives and indoor cattle grazing after being enlightened extensively on the good virtues of refraining from nomadic life and environment protection.

The entire initiative has been spearheaded by Kilimanjaro National Park (Kinapa) which wants to see a lot of newly planted trees, thriving food crops, healthy cattle and improving climate conditions.

The district has in the past been devastated by prolonged drought spells. It is hats off to Kilimanjaro National Park officials, who have also initiated a two-million shilling dairy goat project in the district, for starters. When addressing a rally at Longido in October 2010, former President Jakaya Kikwete told livestock keepers, some of whom were also farmers, to grow high quality pasture for their cattle.

He also said that the livestock policy calls for rearing of better quality hybrid cattle. In fact, the policy encourages cattle keepers to grow cattle feeds that would save their animals from starvation when droughts or floods hit. He called for smaller but healthier herds.

The former president also said that livestock research centres would be enabled to produce higher-value hybrid bulls that would be distributed to cattle keepers in a quest to produce heftier cattle that would produce more meat and more milk. Well, not much has been done since that year. Despite owning large herds of cattle, Tanzanians are poor eaters of meat and even poorer drinkers of their own milk. The nation slaughters 1,500,000 cattle; 2,500,000 goats and 550, 000 sheep on average every year.

But the citizens of this considerably wealthy nation eat only 11 kilos of meat individually every year which is “very low” as compared to the 50 kilos recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Milk drinking rates are equally miserable. The nation has a huge task in its hands.

Apart from enlightening its citizens on the good virtues of eating enough meat and drinking much milk, efforts should be made to ensure that exports of live cattle taper off and that more cattle products are exported. Tanzania may have a large herd of cattle, but, paradoxically, there are districts or even whole regions where cow’s milk or beef is virtually unheard of.

The nation has more than 22 million head of cattle. It comes third in Africa in this aspect after Ethiopia and Sudan. What the National Assembly heard sometime last year is difficult to decipher.

The august House was told that Tanzania exported more than 880 tonnes of meat worth 28.8bn/- the year before and that business keeps booming. The country also exported 126.2 tonnes of beef; 88.4 tonnes of mutton and 667 tonnes of goat meat. The lawmakers were also told that seven new meat processing plants and 67 diary product factories would be built. Perhaps the main pitfall in this business is the stark reality that the nation exports live cattle as well, instead of the more lucrative products alone.

The main importers of live cattle (and products) are Comoro, Burundi, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Live cattle and products are also shipped to neighbouring countries with Kenya in the lead. The other canker is that this nation has virtually failed to improve the genetic quality of its herd of cattle. The short horn Zebu and Ankole remain dominant in the herd. These produce too little meat and insignificant amounts of milk and other products. A new livestock policy, however, calls for rearing of better quality hybrid cattle.

The policy encourages cattle keepers to grow cattle feeds that would save their animals from starvation when droughts or floods hit. Smaller but healthier herds are much better. It is imperative to mention here that some farmers in this country get a raw deal when their tracts of farmland are passed to so-called investors with little or no compensation at all.

This is land grabbing which is, indeed, an abominable felony; no wonder foreign investors are not taken kindly in some localities. It is worthwhile to point out here that this is an undesirable practice that is knocking smallscale farmers off their feet not only in Tanzania but also in other African countries and farther afield. Perhaps the decision to limit land allocations will lessen the problem.

Many kind-hearted activists around the world have raised concerns that poor villagers, including those in Tanzania, will be forced off their land and agribusinesses in the near future, a sorry spectacle that will marginalize subsistence farming.

But greedy land grabbers say that foreign investment can help poor countries create jobs, increase export earnings and use more advanced technologies. This could be the case if these socalled investors treated the losers of land kindly.

But many investments have failed due to insufficient soil fertility, financing difficulties or over-ambitious business plans. In Tanzania, for example, some large biofuels projects have now been abandoned. But the land still remains in the hands of the “looters.”

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