Tanzania’s Food Systems Stance: Addressing Data Gaps for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security

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It is widely known how paramount food is for human survival. Without questioning its rank in comparison to the level of significance of other fundamental needs like air and water, it is undeniable that food systems play a crucial role in sustaining life and promoting productivity just as it is for petrol or diesel for fuels, automobiles, or batteries power for the newly innovated electric vehicles. Food is the body’s fuel providing the essential nutrients and energy required for optimal functioning.

To ensure adequate food, it is always crucial that the household head is vigilant of that particular household, thinking of how the home can accommodate its population. While the world is struggling with what seems to be the biggest challenge, climate change, food availability, and security is a problems that the most significant nations and international organizations are trying to look into.

To ensure the world combats hunger, terminologies such as food security and food systems have been interchangeably used while addressing a problem. Still, fighting anger is also a solution for the world’s population.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the world is estimated to be needing around 3.3 billion metric tons of food are produced annually for human consumption.  While this doesn’t reflect the exact amount of food consumed per person, it is estimated the figure is purposely required to meet the world’s population around 8 billion. This population and its subsequent increase projection in 20 or 50 years gives a super critical warning with regards to food demand, a warning that has global institutions looking into possible solution through improved and technological advancements.

UN Food Summit: Tanzania to Lead African Dialogue

One of the recent efforts has seen the establishment and conduction of a food systems summit, an initiative called upon by the United Nations involving the global head of state. At the same time, the meeting was first called for in 2019 and conducted in 2021. At the worldwide stance, the conference is currently taking place in Italy to transform the way the world produces, consumes, and thinks about food through, firstly, identifying solutions and leaders and issuing a call for action at all levels of the food system, including national and local governments, companies and citizens.

Secondly, raising awareness and elevating the public discussion on how reforms our food systems can be in achieving the SGDs, developing principles to guide governments and other stakeholders looking to leverage their food systems to support the SDGs but also creating a system of follow-up and review to ensure actions, progress and experience sharing of experiences, lessons, and knowledge.

In Africa, the food system summit is expected to be conducted again in Tanzania with the linked objects to the global food system dialogue that attends to advancing the continent’s agriculture and food systems agenda, from food security to agri-food investments.

Tanzania’s Sustainable Food Production and System

As a nation, Tanzania has dedicated significant efforts to improve its food ecosystem. These efforts can be traced back through various policies, strategies, and plans, such as the agricultural policy, Kilimo Kwanza, National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP I & II), known as MKUKUTA, and Agricultural Sector Development Plan I & II, among others. The agricultural ministry has recently demonstrated its commitment to a record-breaking budgetary allocation.

Still, the BBT program, a 10-year initiative to increase youth engagement in agriculture, reflects the country’s determination to the country’s sector. Nevertheless, the government’s openness to work with partners, private companies, and NGOs towards improving food production and creating an eased business environment vividly shows the country’s readiness and sustainably enhancing food production and associated vital factors in the food system.

These endeavors have aimed to enhance the performance of the agricultural sector and its sub-sectors, benefiting the Tanzanian population and the country’s economy. Despite institution and country technological challenges, Tanzania remains renowned for its impressive sectorial performance in Africa.

Notably, the sector contributes approximately 28% to the national GDP and provides employment for over 65% of the population. These figures clearly illustrate the crucial role agriculture and food production play in the welfare and livelihood of the Tanzanian people. As a testament to Tanzania’s commitment to this vital sector, the upcoming Africa Food Systems Forum, to be held in the next couple of months, will take place in Tanzania’s capital city, Dar es Salaam. This honor further underscores the country’s recognition of agriculture and food production as a cornerstone for the well-being and prosperity of its citizens.

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Neglected Challenge of Unaccounted Food Production

Amid the numerous notable successes and commendable efforts that Tanzania has achieved in improving its food ecosystem, there remains a significant area of concern—record management and data availability regarding key production aspects essential for enhancing Tanzania’s food systems. Understanding that a comprehensive food system encompasses the structural and functional aspects of food value chains, food systems, and consumer behavior, it becomes evident that insufficient can adequately support these critical areas.

The Agricultural sector, being multifaceted, requires robust and supportive data across various domains. Currently, the most relied-upon sources for assessing the stance of the Agricultural industry are the year-on-year ministry financial and budgetary speeches and the National Sample Census of Agriculture. While these sources offer valuable insights, there is a pressing need for the ministry to improve its data collection and management practices.

This step is vital to comprehensively understand how our food production aligns with the known population. Although Tanzania is generally considered self-sufficient in food, it is essential to delve deeper and gain insights into how the population produces its food, to what extent, and other pertinent recent developments. Unfortunately, the most reliable data available on this matter is often 3-4 years old, which can be too outdated to capture current production trends, especially considering the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and global geo-political instabilities.

Synergies Between Food System Improvement and Data Availability

Tanzania plays a crucial role in the global food system, serving as an exemplary model with its renowned arable land area, diverse agroecological zones, and a population structure that reflects the extent of its labor force engaged in food production. However, amid the evolving challenges and opportunities in the agricultural landscape, a more dynamic and up-to-date approach to data gathering, availability, and management becomes indispensable.

To achieve significant improvements in the food systems, there is a pressing need for a well-established and harmonized record-keeping practice that ensures the availability of timely and accurate data. Such data will be the foundation for making well-informed decisions that positively impact the Tanzanian population’s food production, distribution, and overall food security. Obtaining relevant and up-to-date information is vital, and a recent Agricultural census can be instrumental in achieving this goal.

As Tanzania prepares to host the food system summit, it becomes increasingly important to share its position based on the most recent data available on key areas of the country’s food systems. This includes highlighting the current production levels and providing valuable insights into how the government meets its population’s food needs.

By leveraging data and informed decision-making, Tanzania can reinforce its pivotal role in the global food system and contribute to sustainable food production and security for its people. It is imperative to embrace the transformative potential of accurate and recent information to pave the way for a more resilient and prosperous food future.

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