Media Reports Prompt Tanzanian Government to Invest in Dairy Industry and Irrigation System

Feb 12011

A special agricultural news weekly, launched by a Knight International Journalism Fellow at Tanzania’s leading newspaper, took recent aim at the faltering dairy industry. In the June 1 issue of The Guardian’s Kilimo Kwanza, reporters Angel Navurri and Jaston Binala wrote about the inability of Tanzania’s dairy farmers to afford modern equipment because of high taxes.

Making an Impact on Agriculture in Tanzania

As a result, roughly two million liters, nearly half of the milk collected in the country each day, spoils before it reaches the market. Some local farmers lose profits. For others, spoilage makes it impossible to ever enter the cash economy, so they remain stuck in poverty. And consumers pay higher prices for milk imported from other countries, even though Tanzania has the third largest cattle population in Africa.

The government took notice. Just a few weeks after the series ran, officials lifted duties on dairy equipment in the new national budget, making it cheaper and easier to process milk and keep it fresh long enough to reach market.

“It’s as if the finance minister was reading straight from our supplement,” said senior editor Wence Mushi.

In another issue, Kilimo Kwanza called for the government to approve funds for irrigation, allowing farmers to access the country’s plentiful water resources year-round. Without modern equipment, dry spells cut their crops two out of three seasons, and droughts cause complete crop failure on average once every ten years. With irrigation, farmers can produce higher-value crops like fruits and vegetables, and reap the harvest in three-to-four crop cycles per year, not just one.

After Kilimo Kwanza’s stories ran, officials approved funds for irrigation in the new budget. It allocates approximately $15 million for irrigation efforts nationwide. The plan involves irrigating 17 million acres of farmland over the next three years. That means digging channels, installing pipes for water to be transported and building pumping stations that can deliver the water where it’s needed. It also means providing grants and awards for hand-held pumps that can help small farmers multiply their incomes.

Tanzania has the third largest cattle population on the African Continent, but imports 70% of the milk it consumes. (Photo by BBC World Service)

Kilimo Kwanza is the brainchild of Fellow Joachim Buwembo, an editor and media consultant from Uganda. Buwembo created Kilimo Kwanza to improve news coverage of poverty and development issues in Tanzania. Arriving in August of 2009, he quickly recognized the link between the country’s high poverty rate and its weak agriculture sector. He convinced his partners at The Guardian to produce the weekly agriculture supplement. Other media outlets have followed the Guardian’s example, devoting far more space to agriculture issues.

When the publication was launched, it carried no advertising at all. ICFJ send a business expert to Tanzania to help develop an ad strategy, Now, the publication generates enough private advertising dollars to be fully self-supporting.

Buwembo is now identifying a successor to take over the reins of Kilimo Kwanza, which has two full-time reporters.The final six months of his fellowship will focus on the creation of a citizen journalist network for his weekly so that it can better monitor agricultural policies across the nation. He plans a pilot phase with citizen journalists reporting from each district on whether irrigation funds have been delivered, pumps have been installed and channels have been dug.