I recently had the opportunity to assist to a farmers’ meeting who came from different towns of Tanzania (Morogoro, Dodoma, Ruvuma and Iringa). Most of the farmers are struggling to expand their farm plots, as well as to plant seeds that could endure bad weather and produce higher yield. Since it is easier to get loans, some of them agreed that it would be better if they joined a corporation instead of being independent workers.
Even though, this group of farmers is seeking for ways to make crop production sustainable regardless of the economic, climatic and food situation in Tanzania.
1st option: Food aid
Some of the farmers believed that cash aid transfer would make them grow and eat a great variety of food, save them from malnutrition as well as improve their products’ marketing. Likewise, some farmers declared that being reluctant to engage fully in cultivation with anticipation of getting food aid during crisis had been a stumbling block in their struggle to end hunger cycle.
Others, in exchange, did not agree as aid is now being reduced due to its dependence on Government budget and donations from developed countries which are currently struggling to adjust their fiscal positions. “Food aid is unavoidable in situations such as occurrences of natural catastrophes in which it becomes an effective way to solve the hunger problem”, said one of the farmers. Moreover, another farmer from Iringa complained on the fact that food aid keeps people alive but not healthy. “Food aid has been forcing my family to reduce a number of meals a day and take one type of food only”, he said.
Agricultural Voucher Program or the alternative choice
In order to mitigate this problem, Tanzanian Government currently offers a national agricultural voucher program for farmers that stimulates purchasing power and competition amongst suppliers and farmers. In fact, when asked to choose between food aid and cash transfer program, most of them expressed they would vouch for the second option as they are now able to produce additional food which is sold and distributed to neighboring regions and abroad.
However, one of the farmers in the group was skeptical on effectiveness of cash transfer programs. He argued that these programs cannot reach all the people, particularly the poor who are the most vulnerable and constantly in hunger due to their low income. Thus, these programs might be subject to corruption by intermediaries.
As a young Tanzanian, I believe that whether we receive food aid or cash transfer programs these should ensure sustainable production of goods and services. Ensuring peace and stability of the region as well as respecting and preserving environmental resources.
In the desire to build a brighter future, I ask now your opinion. What is the best way to ensure food sustainability? Do you think food aid or cash transfer programs will help eliminate hunger and malnutrition?
Picture credit: Wheat Fields, by Macin Smolinski