Unlocking the full potential of Tanzania’s smallholder farmers requires concerted efforts to mitigate against climate change

President Samia Suluhu’s reaffirmation at COP26 that Tanzania is fully committed to mitigating the effects of adverse climate change across all key sectors (including agriculture) is very commendable. President Samia addressed the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), at  Glasgow, Scotland, in the UK. 

It is great news for over 22,407,487 smallholder crop growers, over  4.5 million pastoralists households, and thousands of fisherfolks and foresters in Tanzania. 

She called for global powers, who have the largest culpability in climate change, to do their part in climate change financing for low-income nations, including Tanzania, to meet mitigation goals across all key sectors. 

At Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in Tanzania, we greatly appreciate the President’s commitment. Implementing global, regional, and national climate change mitigation goals is vital for driving sustainable food systems critical for our nation’s well-being in terms of food security and agriculture exports.

Tanzania’s people are its greatest asset, followed by its natural resources, which need conservation and protection from climate change hazards. We have the agriculture and water sectors at the centre stage, vital for most of the populace’s food security and income generations.  

Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries make up about  30% of gross domestic product.  Unfortunately, according to President Samia, unless global and local climate change mitigations are implemented, the 30% contribution to GDP may not be sustainable. Yet our dear motherland has dedicated over 48 million hectares to forest conservation, and at times we still experience unpredictable floods and droughts. 

At AGRA, we know that a drop in rainfall leads to drought; it does not take long to tip millions into poverty who depend on rain-fed agriculture. We are aware of the growing population that puts pressure on the available natural resources. 

The effects include climate change.  Since 2006 when AGRA started supporting agriculture development activities in Tanzania, it has always been our priority to ensure climate change mitigation for the benefit of smallholder farmers.

One of the approaches we have used has been promoting appropriate agriculture technologies for increased crop productivity for smallholder farmers as a mitigating  measure against climate change 

Low productivity often means farmers need vast pieces of land to make ends meet, often extending cultivation to fragile ecosystems, which increases risks of climate change.  At AGRA, we have worked with the government, private sector, and development partners to promote appropriate agriculture practices that increase crop yield.  

Between 2017 and 2020, collaborative investments by AGRA and its implementing partners in select Regions of Western Tanzania have seen increased productivity in maize (230%), beans (100%), and rice (67%), all-important staple crops in Tanzania. Thanks to improved seeds, fertilizers, and general education on best farming practices, including climate mitigation, it has been possible.

Another approach we have been using is advocating and promoting availability of technology for smallholder farmers to adopt best agriculture practices. 

AGRA has supported the development and commercialization of improved seed varieties, some of the drought-tolerant, in collaboration with public and private organisations.  Working with business services providers, AGRA has provided training to smallholder farmers on soil health, planting, use of fertilizers, and post-harvest management of crops. We introduced novel postharvest storage technology, which has been adopted by over a million farmers in Tanzania and directly helps to mitigate climate change.   

The storage technology is designed to store produce for a long time and dramatically reduces post-harvest losses, naturally, without using chemicals.

At AGRA, we see agricultural development as the most critical driver for poverty reduction in Africa. There is evidence that GDP growth originating in agriculture often is between 2 to 4 times more effective in raising incomes of the poor than GDP growth created outside the sector.  As we continue supporting the industry, climate change will continue to be a priority area.

The author is Vianey Rweyendela, the Tanzania Country Manager, AGRA Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa