Agriculture in TanzaniaTanzania, the second largest country in East Africa, is just south of the Equator. It shares borders with Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. Including the islands of Unguja and Pemba that make up Zanzibar, Tanzania's total area is 947,303 square kilometres.
Tanzania is mountainous in the northeast, where Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak, is situated. Three of Africa's Great Lakes are partly within Tanzania. To the north and west lie Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake, and Lake Tanganyika, the continent's deepest lake, known for its unique species of fish. To the southwest lies Lake Nyasa. Central Tanzania is a large plateau, with plains and arable land. The eastern shore is hot and humid, with the Zanzibar Archipelago just offshore. The variety of soils in mainland Tanzania surpasses that of any other country in Africa. The reddish brown soils of volcanic origin in the highland areas are the most fertile. Many river basins also have fertile soils, but they are subject to flooding and require drainage control. The red and yellow tropical loams of the interior plateaus, on the other hand, are of moderate-to-poor fertility.
A simplified soil classification is as follows:
Volcanic soils: These soils are of high agricultural potential. They predominate in Arusha, Kilimanjaro Regions, southwest Highlands, the Kitulo plateau. At high and medium altitudes, they zones are of importance for the production of dairy forage production.
Light sandy soils: predominate in the coastal areas. They can be used for grazing during the rainy season but thereafter, these soils dry out rapidly and forage production becomes low and has poor quality.
Soils of granite/gneiss origin: are poor and occur mainly in mid-west especially in Mwanza and Tabora.
Red soils: occupy most of central plateau. They produce good forage in the short rainy season and the quality of forage is maintained into the dry season.
Ironstone soils: are found in the far west, mainly in Kagera, Kigoma and Sumbawanga regions. They have poor inherent fertility and are acidic, but they can be made more productive with nutrient inputs, mulching and manuring.
The mbuga black vertisols: These soils are widespread and are important for supplying forage during the dry season.
Tanzania has a tropical climate and is divided into four main climatic zones: the hot humid coastal plain; the semi-arid central plateau; the high rainfall lake regions; and the temperate highlands. In the highlands, temperatures range from 10ºC and 20ºC during cool and warm seasons, respectively. Tanzania has two major rainfall regimes. One is uni-modal (October–April) and the other is bi-modal (October–December and March–May). The former is experienced in southern, central, and western parts of the country, and the latter is found in the north from Lake Victoria extending east to the coast.
Agricultural land (% of land area) in Tanzania was reported at 44.76 % in 2018, according to the World Bank Tanzania with around 60 million inhabitants ranks number 24 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population. The population density in Tanzania is 67 per Km2. As of 2020, nearly 65 percent of total employment in Tanzania was in the agricultural sector. According to estimates, the share of people employed in agriculture has been progressively decreasing in the country. In 2000, 83 percent of the employed Tanzanians were engaged with agricultural activities.
Tanzania’s agriculture is a leading contributor to the country’s GDP accounting for 28.2% in 2018 (USD 12.7 billion). In 2014 it accounted for USD 10.3 billion or 25.8% of GDP, marking an increase of 48% over 5 years.
MaizeMaize is the most produced food crop in Tanzania accounting for 62.6%, followed by rice (21.6%), pulses (15.1%), and wheat (0.7%). Cash crop production reached 0.639 million tonnes in 2018/19, compared to 0.627 million tonnes in 2014/15, marking an increase of 2%. Corn is the most widely grown and consumed food crop in Tanzania. It is famously used to make stiff porridge (ugali) which is a local cuisine in Tanzania and most African countries. More than 90 percent of wheat produced in Tanzania comes from large commercial farms in the Northern Highlands or small and medium-sized family farms in the Southern Highlands. Most of the country’s wheat is grown in the North, specifically in Kilimanjaro, Arusha, and Manyara.
WheatWheat production in the year 2021/22 decreased by 22.2 percent, largely due to high post-harvest loss, below-average rainfall, and desert locust invasions in Northern Tanzania. Pasta, biscuits, breakfast cereals, mandazi, chapatis, cookies, stiff porridge (ugali), cakes, and doughnuts drive the wheat industry in Tanzania. Wheat consumption in Tanzania is ranked fourth after maize, cassava, and rice. Wheat is mainly consumed in the form of wheat flour, which is both an intermediate and final product. The wheat milling industry is dominated by local companies with mills and silos in Dar es Salaam. Urbanization and the growth of major cities like Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, and Arusha are expected to increase demand for wheat products as 80 percent of wheat is consumed in urban areas.
RiceTanzania the biggest rice producer in the East Africa region. The rice sub-sector has long been identified by Tanzania as a strategic priority for agricultural development due to its potential for improving food security and income for rural households. In recent years, Tanzania has prioritized rice cultivation for local consumption and export to neighbouring countries. In Tanzania, rice is a staple food consumed in both urban and rural areas. Dar es Salaam is the principal end market for rice in the country and accounts for about 60 percent of consumption. Rice is not harvested in Tanzania from September to December, causing shortage of domestic supplies and encouraging imports. Tanzania primarily imports long-grain milled rice from Pakistan.
SugarTanzania produces only 58 percent of its sugar consumption due to the high cost of production, processing inefficiencies, and inadequate marketing. The 42% demand gap is met by about USD 132 million in sugar imports from other countries, primarily Brazil and India.
Cashew nutsCashew nuts are the most produced cash crop in Tanzania accounting for 35.2% of the production, followed by seed cotton (34.9%), coffee (10.4%), tobacco (8.6%), tea (5.8%), and sisal (5%). Tanzania is one among the major cashew producing countries in Africa. Major cashew growing area in Tanzania includes Mtwara, Lindi, Ruvuma and Tanga. Among these regions, Mtwara and Lindi regions contributes more than 87% to the national cashew production. The traditional cashew tree is tall (up to 14 m) and takes three years from planting before it starts production, and eight years before economic harvests can begin. More recent breeds, such as the dwarf cashew trees, are up to 6 m tall, and start producing after the first year, with economic yields after three years. The cashew nut yields for the traditional tree are about 0.25 metric tons per hectare, in contrast to over a ton per hectare for the dwarf variety. Grafting and other modern tree management technologies are used to further improve and sustain cashew nut yields in commercial orchards.
The cashew seed, often simply called a cashew, is widely consumed. It is eaten on its own, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. The shell of the cashew seed yields derivatives that can be used in many applications including lubricants, waterproofing, paints, and arms production, starting in World War II. The cashew apple is a light reddish to yellow fruit, whose pulp can be processed into a sweet, astringent fruit drink or distilled into liquor.
TobaccoTobacco is mainly grown in the miombo woodland regions of central western and southern highlands of Tanzania, where growers clear vast areas for farms and consume large quantities of natural wood for curing the crop. There are two main types of leaf tobacco grown in Tanzania, distinguished by curing methods. Virginia ‚flue-cured’ (VFC) whereby harvested leaves are hung in curing barns, in which heated air is generated by burning wood to dry the leaves for up to a week. This variety is primarily grown for the international market, accounting for over 80% of the annual tobacco production in the country. Accounting for 15% of the country‘s tobacco production is dark fire cured tobacco (DFC), which is cured by smoke and was first introduced in Namtumbo, Ruvuma region, in the 1930s. Tobacco cultivation in the country is characterized by smallholder growers, for whom the crop serves as a major source of household employment and income. Families cultivating tobacco get agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) on agreement to deliver the harvested and cured leaves to the tobacco buying and processing companies.
Raw tobacco and cashew nuts are Tanzania’s most exported cash crops. The top export destinations of the Tanzanian tobacco are Germany, Russia, and Poland, while almost 80% of cashews are exported to India. Most of the production of cashew nuts in Tanzania is exported without being shelled.
Livestock in TanzaniaTanzania’s livestock production generated USD 4.2 billion in 2018, compared to USD 2.4 billion in 2014, representing an increase of 75%. Out of the total meat production, 55% (USD 2.31 billion) comes from cattle, 21% (USD 0.88 billion) from sheep and goats, 14% (USD 0.59 billion) from pigs, and only 10% (USD 0.42 billion) from chicken.
Shinyanga, Mwanza and Tabora are the best three in order of their rank where most of the country’s livestock including chicken are found1. A total of around 2,4 million households are keeping livestock in Tanzania. 99.9% of the country’s livestock is kept by small holder farmers leaving the contribution of large scale farms very insignificant.
Production of meat, milk and eggs enables the sub-sector plays important role in the national food supply. Livestock also contributes to crop production through the provision of farm yard manure and draft power. In Tanzania, three traditional typologies of livestock production (or livestock production systems) have existed for several centuries . These systems of production can broadly be described as ‘pastoral’, ‘smallholder’, and ‘agro-pastoral’.. Pastoral systems have been found in the semi-arid, rangeland areas of northern Tanzania and historically dominated by Maasai ethnicities, with less populous groups such as the Barabaig also present. This production system has traditionally relied primarily, but not exclusively on livestock production, utilising long distance movements for grazing in response to variable rainfall patterns. Smallholder farming systems, by contrast, have traditionally been found on the high soil fertility slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru and the Pare mountains. Here, members of ethnicities such as the Chagga, Meru, and Pare have reared typically small numbers of livestock integrated closely with intensive cash and subsistence crop production. Agro-pastoral systems in Tanzania have also traditionally involved mixed crop and livestock agriculture but have typically been found in more marginal areas. While crop production has generally made the largest overall contribution to agro-pastoral livelihoods , large herd sizes with varying levels of mobility have allowed these farmers to maximise the productivity of available grassland.
Forest industry in TanzaniaThe forest industry is an important sector in the country providing both direct and indirect livelihoods to local communities and hence contributing to the national income. From the different types of forest, people obtain a variety of products such as sawnwood, fuel wood (charcoal and firewood), medicinal plants, meat through hunting wild animals, fodder for livestock, tannis, honey, beeswax, fibres, gums etc. Studies have indicated that more than 90% of the population in Tanzania use fuelwood (charcoal and firewood) as a main source of energy with the estimated per capita consumption of about 1m3. Most of these fuelwood are supplied from the miombo woodlands which as stated earlier covers about half of the forest area in mainland Tanzania.
The forestry sector is larger in value than the entire export crops sector in Tanzania. Charcoal is a growing forestry industry due to increasing urbanization, Tanzania’s natural forest hardwoods are relatively valuable, worth an estimated USD 42 million annually: The total harvesting of hardwoods from natural forests for timber was estimated at 170,000 m3. Prices for wood from Tanzania have been on the increase compared with other African countries. The softwood industry is dominated by Sao Hill Plantation. The Government-owned Sao Hill Forest produced one million m3 of timber in 2011, 80% of all plantation harvesting. The largest share, some 650,000m3, goes to small and medium size saw millers. The main industries based on plantations are sawmilling, paper and telephone and building poles.
Fishing industry in TanzaniaTanzania’s fishing industry generated USD 0.27 billion in 2018 versus USD 0.21 billion in 2014, marking an increase of 26%. Aquaculture in Tanzania is dominated by freshwater fish farming in which small-scale farmers practice both extensive and semi-intensive fish farming. Small fish ponds of an average size of 10 m x 15 mm (150 m2) are integrated with other agricultural activities such as gardening and animal and bird production on small pieces of land. Tanzania is currently estimated to have a total of 14,100 freshwater fishponds scattered across the mainland.
The marine coast of Tanzania has a narrow, sharply falling shelf. Marine fishing activity is generally concentrated inshore and around the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia. Inland waters cover about 6.5 percent of the total land area, and their combined production in recent years has accounted for between 80 and 90 percent of the national total for capture fisheries. The inland fisheries provide direct employment for perhaps 200 000 artisanal and subsistence operators, who deploy gillnets, lift nets, beach seines, longlines, traps, and pole-and-line for a wide range of species, including Nile perch, tilapias, small pelagic dagaa, and catfish. An estimated 25 000 small craft – mainly traditional dugouts and planked canoes – make up the national inland fishery fleet.
The balance of Tanzania’s inland water resources, apart from the three Great Lakes, comprise the comparatively large Lake Rukwa (2 300 km2) and many minor or seasonal lakes, swamps and floodplains. Numerous water conservation and flood control reservoirs have also been stocked with fish. Whilst these various rivers, minor lakes, swamps and reservoirs host small but locally important commercial or subsistence fisheries, some 86 percent of Tanzania’s inland waters are contained in the Great Lakes of Victoria, Tanganyika and Malawi/Nyasa. All three lakes host remarkably diverse assemblies of fish and other aquatic life. Their waters, with the particularly heavy contribution of Lake Victoria, provide the bulk of Tanzania’s inland (and thus, indeed, total national) fisheries production.
Lake Victoria, covering some 68 000 km2, is shared between Tanzania (49 percent), Uganda (45 percent) and Kenya (6 percent), and is the second largest body of fresh water in the world by area (after Lake Superior).
Lake Tanganyika covers some 32 900 km2, shared between Tanzania (41 percent), the Democratic Republic of Congo (45 percent), Zambia (6 percent) and Burundi (8 percent). It is the second-deepest lake in the world (after Lake Baikal), and has a mean depth of 570 m. Lake Malawi/Nyasashares many of the features of Lake Tanganyika in being a very large (30 800 km2), long (600 km) and deep (758 m max.; 426 m mean). It is a Rift Valley lake containing a richly diverse (1000+ species) assembly of fish.