A stroll through a state fair would likely meander through a series of barns housing livestock, by vendors selling and celebrating foods of the region, and to informational booths educating the public on agricultural practices and innovations. Though they often offer amusements rides, music and other forms of entertainment, pride in the state’s agriculture is the backbone of our country’s state fairs.
Tanzania’s Nane Nane Day might be compared to a state fair. Literally meaning ”eight eight” in Swahili, the national holiday on August 8 is also known as Farmers Day. Nane Nane Day celebrates the contributions of all involved in agriculture.
On this Nane Nane Day, 2018, let’s take a closer look at agriculture in Tanzania.
To understand its importance, consider that 80% of men and 84% of women in the labor force work in agriculture. (5) Most of these laborers are smallholder farmers, with few families cultivating more than two hectares (equivalent to roughly 5 acres) of land. (2) In 2017, the agricultural sector contributed 30% of the country’s GDP. (7) Over 90% of the food consumed in Tanzania is home grown. (3)
Crop production constitutes the largest segment of Tanzania’s agricultural GDP at 55%. That is followed by livestock at 30% and natural resources at 15%. (5)
With a wide range of Tanzanian geographic zones and climates, a diverse group of crops are grown. In the northern and southern highlands, maize is a major crop. (2) Coffee is also grown in the highlands, often under the shade of banana trees. The northwestern portion of the country, around and near Lake Victoria, is another coffee-growing region.
In southern Tanzania, macadamia nuts, avocados and potatoes are grown in addition to coffee. (1)
Photo Credit: Maxime Niyomwu/Unsplash
Traditionally, cotton has been grown in the northwest. However, farmers in other regions have begun to grow the crop as the expectation for favorable prices increases. As a result, cotton production is expected to quadruple in 2018. (6)
In the tropical coastal belt, farmers harvest cassava ( a nutty-flavored, starchy root vegetable).
Rice is grown in an area spreading west from Dar es Salaam, while millet (a tiny, round grain) and sorghum( a cereal grain) are grown in the central plateau. (2) In Zanzibar, farmers grow a variety of fruits, vegetables and spices, notably, cloves. (3)
Of these crops, coffee is a major export, earning 17% of the country’s foreign exchange. Other export crops include cotton, cashews, and tobacco. (3)
The livestock raised by farmers includes poultry, cattle, goats and sheep. The raising of livestock is concentrated in the arid and semi-arid center and north of the country as 60% of Tanzania’s rangeland area is infested with the tsetse fly. Overgrazing has led to the erosion of the land. (3)
Photo Credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash
The challenges of Tanzanian farmers are substantial. They include limited access to support services and financial capital, dependence on rainfall, climate change, poor rural infrastructure, crop diseases and pests. (5) Among Nane Nane Day’s opportunities is the chance to learn about agricultural best practices, innovations, and progress in sustainable farming. A goal is to educate smallholder farmers to increase the value of their produce and thus, their income. (2)
Photo Credit: John Matychuk/Unsplash
Aside from the agricultural showcases, the US and Tanzania share one other thing. Following the browsing, observing and learning, it’s time to hit the food stands! Americans’ fair favorites are buttery corn on the cob, cream puffs and deep fried cheese curds. In Tanzania, a favorite is chips mayai, fried potatoes with an egg slathered on top.
Tanzanians, enjoy your Nane Nane Day!