Agriculture in Tanzania
Agriculture is Tanzania’s most significant economic mainstay and contributes USD 14billion to the country’s GDP. The entire land size under cultivation as of 2013 was 396,000 square kilometers and it is slated to increase by about 7 percent each year.
The main cash crops grown in the country include coffee, tobacco, tea, cashew nuts, cotton, cloves, groundnuts, and sisal. Tobacco alone accounted for the country’s most important exportable cash crop and grew from USD 169m of revenues in 2010 to USD 320m in 2015.
Cashew nuts were next and grew from USD 50m to USD 200, while coffee revenues grew from USD 109m to USD 164m in the same period. The main export destinations are Germany, Russian and Poland while almost 90 percent of all cashew nuts are exported to India.
A critical overview
From the famous spice farms and powdery beaches of Zanzibar to the enormous plains of the Serengeti and the snow-topped Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania not only lays claim to some of the most fertile agricultural land in Africa but it remains a puzzle as to why this massive natural resource has not lifted a large swathe of its population out of poverty.
The country remains one of the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa. Its vast herds of zebu cattle have been forced onto overgrazed landscapes to the point of becoming a desert. Local herd owners, especially the Maasai are unwilling to reduce their herd sizes which to them mean an equivalent of live-savings, children’s inheritance and pension thrown into one. And their culture is being eroded by modern concepts of land ownership and pressure from the government to get rid of their nomadic lifestyle and settle down.
Value addition from agriculture
However, at present, value-added products from Tanzania include manufactured coffee and tobacco, cotton yarn, sisal products, and wheat flour. According to the 2025 Vision of the Agriculture ministry, there will be a valuable addition to at least two new products from each of the staple crops, and horticultural crops each year.
According to the World Bank’s livestock production index, the country’s livestock production rose by 35 percent during the period 2009 to 2013 exceeding the regional average livestock production growth of 11 percent during the same period.
Meat production rose by 33 percent over the period from 400,000 tons to 560,000 tonnes. Out of these, 55 percent came from cattle, 20 percent from goats and sheep, 15 percent from pigs and only 10 percent came from chicken.
In 2015, the country’s Department of Livestock and Fisheries launched TLMI, an acronym for the Tanzania Livestock Modernization Initiative, with the aim of transforming the traditional subsector into a modern, sustainable and responsible engine for rural development.