TANZANIANS from various groups have begun discussions on how to have sustainable food systems that will contribute to food security and nutrition in the country at all times.
The move is part of a common direction to end global poverty and hunger by 2030, in line with the 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular the number two goal of eradicating hunger.
Opening a debate involving stakeholders and non-governmental organisations on Food Systems Summit Dialogue and second day for the youths in Dodoma recently, Dodoma City Mayor, Professor Davis Mwamfupe, said Tanzania is expected to take the views of the debate and work on them.
“Note that all 17 goals of the SDGs are linked to food. Food is a very important thing and that is why there are words like ‘pray for your enemy to be hungry’ or ‘children don’t play away from the stove, the flour is a quarter.’ “The government is expected to use these and other ongoing comments across the country to contribute to various food related policies and present them at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FSS) conference to be held in New York USA in September this year,” he pointed out.
The debate was organised by an umbrella linking civil society organisations working in agriculture-Agriculture Non-State Actors Forum (ANSAF) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. Other participants in the debate were Vi Agroforestry, various UN Institutions, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Tanzania Youth Coalition (TYC).
Commenting, Chief Agriculture Officer from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security Department, Margaret Natai, explained that the food systems involve various food production activities (crops, fish and livestock) to reach the consumer at the table.
Some of these activities are food production, processing, transportation, storage and preparation of food in the kitchen to enable man to access various nutrients for his health.
She further says food systems also depend on the status of other arrangements such as health in terms of food security for the consumer, the environment being sustainable and addressing deforestation, which causes food production to decline.
Other issues affecting food systems, according to the chief agricultural officer include the state of the economy being stable or shaky as well as traditions and cultures, further explaining that some people say staple food they know is bananas, some rice, some maize or cassava.
Her list also highlighted other systems that affect food systems as innovation, climate change and education, noting that sometimes the regions that produce the most food are the most malnourished, including malnutrition due to lack of proper nutrition education.
The changes in food systems can also be caused by the migration of citizens from one country or region to another, population growth and the positive or negative use of natural resources.
This can also be dictated by affected by wars and disasters such as corona disease, the growth of layers in society in terms of the haves and haves as well as the use of digital systems.
Everyone gets food Discussing everyone’s argument for access to nutritious and safe food, stakeholders say the main culprits include a lack of proper nutrition education, a situation that causes some people to eat junk food. Contributing to the motion, the Member of Parliament for Special Seats (Representation of CSOs), Neema Rugangira, says food security is an issue that involves the community delivering safe and nutritious food.
However, she warns that there is widespread use of fertilizers, pesticides and crop preservatives that contaminate food and threaten the lives of consumers.
“You find tomatoes being sprayed today and tomorrow it is in the market… the cow is injected today and tomorrow the milk is sent to the market.
There is no food security there,” pointed out the legislator. Another challenge posed by stakeholders is various studies conducted in the fields, but their findings are not shared with farmers themselves and instead remain in the shelves.
They find that even the government’s budget allocated to agriculture is often less than what was required or requested. They also say there is a problem of lack of adequate extension officers as well as lack of good quality seed or sometimes high seed prices.
Contributing to the seed issue, Aithan Chaula argues that apart from the high price of pesticides, the scarcity of high quality seeds makes it difficult for farmers to plant their food crops.
“Seed prices start at an average of 5,000/- per kg and onwards. You imagine the price of sunflower seeds per kilogram is 35,000/-. How many farmers can afford it? ” posed Chaula.
In response to some of these challenges, the proponents of the debate are proposing that the agricultural budget be increased and education on various issues be extended for better agriculture and better nutrition to be provided in abundance in the country.
In the course, they urged the government to improve organic farming, i.e. non-chemical fertilizers and farmers to get education that will help them get rid of all the causes of crop toxins including poor storage.
They also recommend that more quality seed production be done in the country and sold at a lower cost. This includes pesticides and all agricultural inputs, livestock and fisheries inputs.
Responsible for implementing this, stakeholders speak to the government, especially through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and Fisheries, Parliament, civil society and the general public.
Changes in intake Another issue discussed is the need for sustainable change in the sense that there is a problem with people eating the same food routinely and rarely rich in all the necessary nutrients.
Explaining the point, Chief Agricultural Officer Margaret says: “You may hear it said that there is a shortage of food in a certain region, but when they say that they mean maize when there is maize, potatoes, cassava and other foods.
So for them it is not food. ” Some of the challenges discussed are the lack of education about the importance of good nutrition and the problem of growing one crop instead of mixed crops.
Another challenge posed is people selling everything and finding themselves welcoming hunger after the harvest season and another is described as the lack of consumer protection groups.
In response, stakeholders are advocating for greater awareness of the cultivation of highnutrient foods such as fruits and vegetables, promoting climate change, the use of nutritional interventions in various councils and conducting climate-resilient agriculture.
It is proposed that the government, various stakeholders including non-governmental organizations, schools, councils (Tamisemi), governors and others.
Sustainable production Another issue being discussed is Tanzania having sustainable, environmentally friendly, biodiversity- resilient and climate resilient production. Some of the challenges mentioned are the lack of fertility in some areas, environmental degradation through deforestation and improper use of chemicals that cause land to fail to continue producing.
In response, stakeholders in the debate are proposing to provide adequate education on conservation agriculture that uses a small area for high yields, agroforest farming and people to stop farming near water sources. Balance of quality in life Another issue being discussed is the issue of social equity which also includes issues of gender and poverty.
It seems in the debate that there are groups like women and young people who do not own land and there is still a great deal of poverty for some Tanzanians to be able to produce or get food, let alone good nutrition.
Other challenges mentioned are oppressive traditions, poor education, poor use of technology and lack of creativity in production.
It is recommended to come up with policies that protect all groups in society from accessing essential resources, combating bad traditions, the use of technology in production as well as coming up with appropriate policies to fight poverty in the country.
It is stated in the debate that a large percentage of women are involved in agriculture compared to men but do not have adequate education in agriculture and that young people are also under-utilized in food systems.
That the presence of so many young men and women in the country is a great opportunity that has not been exploited enough.
That the presence of Colleges like Sokoine University of Agriculture is also an opportunity that should be used more to bring about productivity in agriculture, food and nutrition than it is now.