From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Ali M. Shein (Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania)

I feel greatly honoured to address this Summit at a time when food security issues are high on the national and international agenda.

Mr Chairman, His Excellency Benjamin William Mkapa, The President of the United Republic of Tanzania, very much regrets that he could not attend this important World Food Summit: five years later because of exigencies of his office. He, however, sends his best wishes for a successful Summit.

Mr Chairman, Allow me also to commend the Food and Agriculture Organization, under the able leadership of Dr. Jacques Diouf, for organizing this Summit to give the Member Nations an opportunity to review the success achieved in reducing hunger since the last Summit in Rome in 1996 and to chart the course forward.

The FAO and its Committee on Food Security observe that the pace of implementing the World Food Summit commitments and the Plan of Action of the 1996 World Food Summit is slow such that a new impetus is needed in the fight against hunger. However, it is encouraging to note that some progress has been made by Member Nations to varying extents. I commend the FAO and its Director General Dr. Jacques Diouf for facilitating the implementation of the Plan of Action.

Mr. Chairman, The United Republic of Tanzania is basically an agricultural country and both the economy and food security are dependent on agriculture. About 50 percent of GDP, over 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings and 80 percent of employment, are dependent on agriculture. The country produces about 95 percent of its food requirements. Agriculture is, therefore, the backbone of our economy and the growth of all other sectors is dependent on the performance of this sector.

The FAO Report on Food Insecurity in the World 2001, identifies a few developing countries as having made progress in agricultural development. In the case of the United Republic of Tanzania, for over a decade, the agricultural sector grew by 3.4 percent per annum compared to the population growth rate of 2.8 percent. This was due to several factors: the low use of technology, improper husbandry practices, plant and animal diseases, poor infrastructure, insufficient resources and inputs, inadequate support systems and mechanisms and erratic weather. Others were widespread rural poverty, epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, influx of refugees from neighbouring countries. This is just to mention a few of the factors. However, last year, the agricultural sector grew by 5.5 percent, and this year we expect it to grow at 6 percent. We are determined to sustain this rate of growth because lower growth rates would not be conducive to eliminating rampant poverty and to ensuring food security for all.

Mr Chairman, the United Republic of Tanzania has set itself an ambitious target of halving the number of people living in poverty by 2010. There is the necessary political will to achieve this goal. We have undertaken reforms in all sectors of the economy. Related reforms have also been undertaken in the political and social spheres where issues of good governance and popular participation have been addressed, and appropriate measures have been put in place to facilitate an enabling environment for the realization of the desired results. In relation to agriculture, we have formulated the Agricultural, Rural Development and Poverty Strategies and Programmes to implement them. The 2002-2003 financial year will be the first year in which the programmes with the implemented Government intends to greatly enhance resource allocations to the agricultural sector and to ensure that those resources benefit the rural communities directly while duly recognizing the important role played by agriculture.

In the short term, we have decided to start to invest in a few quick-win interventions so as to build momentum for sustained growth. These include the construction and rehabilitation of the communications and irrigation infrastructure, provision of adequate and proper use of agricultural inputs, putting in place agricultural financing systems, of the accelerated adoption of appropriate agricultural technologies and agro-processing to add value and to access both local and foreign markets. In view of the strong existing relationship between the environment and poverty, all these activities will take into consideration sustainable environmental protection and conservation policies.

Mr Chairman, The United Republic of Tanzania is endowed with substantial natural resources which include abundant arable land and water resources, a big livestock population, usually favourable weather conditions, a population of over 32 million people, and a leadership committed to bring about rapid economic transformation. However, we lack the financial resources required to translate this potentiality into agricultural production. We also need to put in place delivery systems that will ensure that farmers receive their requisite needs for production, and marketing systems that will ensure farmer remunerative returns to his output.

Under our reform programmes, the Government has diverted itself from direct involvement in production and commercial activities while promoting private sector participation. This policy has succeeded in revamping enterprises which were non-performing and now makes available local and foreign resources in the private sector, to the economy. The private sector, however, is still young and lacks resources, experience. It thus expertises strengthening.

We could greatly increase the rate of growth in the United Republic of Tanzania. To do so we will need to do the following:

- putting in place systems which will ensure the farmer accessibility and proper use of agricultural inputs, including: high-yielding, pest and drought-resistant seeds, fertilizers, the use of animal power and farm machinery and pesticides.
- reducing reliance on rainfed agriculture by rehabilitating irrigation infrastructure, which was constructed in the past, and constructing new irrigation systems of various sizes.
- increasing investments in agriculture. Here, initiatives such as NEPAD, The Special Programme for Food Security and regional cooperation will increase local capacity to address constraints in agriculture, and thus promote for growth.
- establishing a system which will enable smallholder farmers and emerging farmers to have access to credits for agricultural investment.

If these interventions are undertaken, agricultural productivity could increase by as much as fivefold within a relatively short period of time.

We believe that it is possible to reduce food insecurity and poverty, and we have the natural resources with which to make this possible. The problem is lack of financial resources and unfair trading practices in the world, which deny the developing countries access and a level playing field in markets n developed countries. It can be done if each of us, and all of us together, play our parts.

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