Tanzania: Climate-stressed farmers offered loans to stem migration to cities (Trust)

| September 28, 2015

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Pascal Kipeta runs a wooden stall at a busy intersection in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. The ex-farmer offers a wide range of products to passing motorists. But he keeps an eye open for people who might seize his merchandise.

Mr. Kipeta moved to Dar es Salaam in 2011 to seek a new life. He abandoned farming after recurring droughts repeatedly devastated his crops. He is one of the thousands of Tanzanians who have abandoned farming and streamed into the city, one of the fastest growing in Africa. But, like the others, he is finding it hard to make a living.

The 39-year-old says: “[Running a stall] is a very tough job. I have to be alert all the time to avoid being hit by the speeding cars and … to ensure that my things are not taken by [the authorities] … It is illegal to conduct business here.”

Every day, Mr. Kipeta wakes up early and rushes to buy goods from wholesalers, aiming to make a small profit on what he sells. He says, “I had a lot of expectations when I first came here, but all the dreams melted away … Life is getting tougher and tougher.”

More than 70 per cent of the Tanzanian population relies on farming for their livelihoods. Agriculture accounts for one-quarter of the country’s economic output.

Tanzania’s Central Bank says that farmers find it difficult to get loans from commercial banks. Loan officers generally don’t like to loan money to farmers because they believe agriculture is not a viable business and that farmers will be unable to repay their loans.

But help may be on the way for Mr. Kipeta and many others who would like to return to farming. The Tanzanian government recently launched a bank for agriculture. Farmers can use the bank to get training in modern techniques and help them obtain loans.

Speaking at the bank’s launch, Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete said that the government will invest 800 billion Tanzanian shillings [US$380 million] over the next eight years.

The city of Dar es Salaam is vulnerable to climate changes, including worsening floods. A sustained influx of climate-induced migrants would swell the number of urban poor, adding to the city’s problems.

But according to analysts, investing more strongly in agriculture and creating opportunities for farmers to work productively in their own villages could help reverse this trend.

Edith Kija is an agricultural expert. She says: “Most farmers are desperate. They need support to revive their livelihood by learning how to adapt to the changing weather and possibly increase their crop yields.”

For Mr. Kipeta, the bank’s announcement is a welcome surprise. He hopes to secure a loan to buy a drip irrigation system, which he will use to grow onions.

He says, “I will definitely go back to the village and apply for the loan … I believe that will be a lasting solution to my problems.”

To read the article on which this story is based, To stem migrant flow, Tanzania offers climate-stressed farmers loans, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20150902062656-w1bul/

Photo credit: Gilbert Membar/One Acre Fund