Rufiji Basin for Rent….in Tanzania.

By Shaaban Fundi,

Click on the link below to watch Mr. Aloyce Masanja’s Interview on this issue.

The leasing of the Rufiji Basin to South Koreans on the surface makes perfect sense. It is a win-win situation. The South Koreans brings in agricultural machinery, capital and great technology to improve rice farming and boom….high rice yield and Tanzania says good-bye to hunger and food insecurity.

Not so fast. We have heard of these Public-Private-Partnership Adventures or what I call African government wild-goose chases. It is very easy to say, quoting the Rufiji Basin Director Mr. Aloyce Masanja, ‘’the Rufiji Basin Land is an idle and unused land” if you don’t live and are not from that area. The last time I travelled down to Mtwara, what I saw in the Rufiji basin was nothing close to being idle and/or unused. I saw a lot of people who called the Rufiji basin their home and they used the land to promote their own interests.

Some expert in rural development argues that the main issue to be considered is whether rural dwellers in Tanzania can effectively and efficiently leverage on the productive capabilities of the arable land at their disposal. If the answer is no then clearly it is a waste of an extremely valuable productive resource to leave it fallow or (at best) productive on a subsistence scale.

In addition, Tanzania import considerable quantities of foods stuffs (both raw produce and processed foods) as a result of the underdevelopment of its agricultural and industrial sectors. Therefore, the introduction of this sort of Public Private Partnership some experts in developmental issues argue will have several positive effects to Tanzania including:
1.To boost employment opportunities for rural dwellers
2. Encourage steady Inflows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the economy (not just agricultural but also food processing.
3. Facilitate the transfer of modern productive techniques and technologies
4. Lead to the transfer of Skills and knowledge which in turn will lead to increases in the earning capacity of rural dwellers and thus positively impact on their standard of living
5. Contribute to towards infrastructural development of rural areas as amenities such as bore holes, pipe borne water, electrification, access roads.
6. Potentially lead to more partnerships in other areas of the economy.

As much as I agree with this outlook, I have my own reservations. It is my belief that PPP are a great thing only if properly executed. The locals should have a say on what is going to be happening around them. It will be a huge change for them from being owners to renters or workers. This could potentially be very explosive source of conflict if the people on the land now are not thoroughly involved in the decision process and in understanding the fact that, when everything goes they will be trespassers in what used to be theirs.

Several questions beg for answers in this arrangement. What will happen to the local Rufijians? Where are they going to move to? What kinds of compensations will they receive? What on –going support will they receive? The marine and environmental scientist in me will also wonder to what will happen to the ecological system down stream the Rufiji basin and into the Rufiji delta once this very intensive agriculture is in operation? There are many other questions in this issue that needs to be addressed before the PPP can proceed.

Make sure that what happened to the Maasai in Loliondo in July 4th 2010, does not repeat itself in the Rufiji Basin. It would be very helpful if the officials involved in this put the contract details out for public consumption and comments.


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