In Summary

Across the political divide, legislators took a swipe at the Sh170.2 billion 2018/19 budget tabled this week in the National Assembly, accusing the government of not adequately financing the sector that’s arguably the most critical in the country’s seemingly perennial war against the curse of poverty and unemployment.

The frustration that Members of Parliament and some civil society groups have expressed over the agriculture budget is justified. Across the political divide, legislators took a swipe at the Sh170.2 billion 2018/19 budget tabled this week in the National Assembly, accusing the government of not adequately financing the sector that’s arguably the most critical in the country’s seemingly perennial war against the curse of poverty and unemployment.

The sum that Agriculture minister Charles Tizeba tabled, a significant drop from last year’s Sh221 billion, includes Sh98.12 billion for development projects – a figure that MPs dismissed as too small considering the role and place the sector plays in Tanzania’s agro-based economy. Why the MPs – from both the ruling party and opposition – are unanimously demanding more, is a no-brainer.

Statistics tell it all. Agriculture contributes around 30 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP), and accounts for at least 65.5 per cent of all employed Tanzanians. Not only that. It potentially remains the most critical factor for the success of the fifth phase government’s industrialisation drive. The sector contributes 65 per cent of raw materials to industry.

More so, it retains a special place in food security and in earning the country the much-needed foreign exchange. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate funding has over the years been a stumbling block. Agriculture has, apparently, not been achieving its full potential, and this has had a trickle-down effect on other sectors and pillars of the economy that are dependent on it.

According to an analysis by the Agriculture, Livestock and Water Committee, the percentage of the agriculture budget to the main budget drastically dropped from 7.8 per cent in 2010/11 to 4.8 per cent currently. Regionally, Tanzania is also lagging in financing this critical sector. It’s time the government acted to address this anomaly. The world over, governments are recognising the ever increasing need to invest in agriculture. Tanzania cannot afford to be an exception.

Cutting the agriculture budget is like shooting ourselves in the foot – with counterproductive results.