APRA showcase COVID-19 research at key conference in Tanzania

Following APRA Tanzania’s recent report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Tanzania in October, the team has presented further evidence of the effects of COVID-19 on agricultural value chains in Africa.

Researchers Aida Isinika, Ntengua Mdoe, Gideon Boniface, Gilead Mlay, Devotha Kilave, Christopher Magomba and John Jeckoniah attended the Agricultural Society of Tanzania (AGREST) 12th Scientific Conference in Dodoma, 2-4 December 2020, with the theme ‘Unleashing the potential of food systems to enhance intra-African agriculture trade.’

Gideon Boniface presents his paper. Credit: APRA Tanzania

On the opening day of the event, Gideon Boniface presented a paper on ‘Effect of COVID19 on agricultural value chains in Tanzania: The case of the rice value chain in Morogoro region’.  Several points were highlighted:

  • The COVID -19 crisis brought rice surplus due to significant reduction of trade from neighbouring countries;
  • Most traders now depend on the local market, which has also shrunk due to reduced income;
  • Farmers’ purchasing power has significantly declined;
  • 58% of the respondents reported a decline in their living standards;
  • Reduced rice paddy production next year;
  • Urgent  measures to be taken to address the liquidity problem facing farmers. 

The paper was also summarised in APRA Tanzania’s recent two part blog series ‘Rice value chain: has life returned to normal after lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Tanzania?’ (Click here to read the blogs).

Conference in progress. Credit: Calvin Gwabara, SUA media

Ntengua Mdoe then presented a paper on ‘Youth participation in commercial rice farming in Kilombero Valley, Tanzania’.

On the second day of the event, Aida Isinika  presented a paper called ‘Rice exports, an untapped potential in Tanzania: Factors limiting rice commercialisation in Mngeta, Kilombero valley’.

The APRA presentations were amongst 38 scientific research papers presented to over 80 participants from across Tanzania who attended the conference, including academics, researchers, NGO representatives and government officials led by retired Prime Minister, Hon. Mizengo Pinda, who was the guest of honour.

Ntengua Mdoe welcomes retired Prime Minister, Hon. Mizengo Pinda. Credit: Calvin Gwabara, SUA media

Goals of conference

The theme of the conference was “Unleashing the Potential of food systems to enhance Intra-African Agricultural Trade.”  The outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the responses to the crisis has created deep structural problems in the way our food system works with the shrinkage of the global and local food supply in particular in many countries, which has resulted in a ‘food emergency’ being declared by the UN.

Conference organisers, AGREST, defined the “food emergency” as, first, the difference between rural and urban food prices due to the break in connection between the food supply in rural regions and the food demand in urban areas. Secondly, they highlighted smallholders’ restricted access to inputs, which disrupted preparations for subsequent production season. Thirdly, they underlined that agri-businesses only had a limited capability to cope with severe disruptions such, as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aida Isinika presents a gift to Hon. Pinda. Credit: Calvin Gwabara, SUAMEDIA

To respond to the situation and seek some answers, the following questions were posed in AGREST’s call for papers for presentation and discussion at the conference:

1. How should food systems be transformed to meet the rural and urban demands while ensuring sustainability?

2. What initiatives have been and or are being taken to ensure that food systems transformations contribute to the attainment of SDGs?

3. What kind of policy frameworks are needed to foster sustainable food systems?

4. How can we better nature domestic and intra-African Trade for improved resilience?

Group photo of AGREST conference attendees. Credit: Calvin Gwabara, SUAMEDIA

Other conferences attended by APRA

In what was a very busy week for APRA Tanzania, Ntengua Mdoe also presented two papers based on the APRA Study to the Tanzania Animal Science Association (TSAP) and the Tanzania Society of Agricultural Extension (TSAE), in Dodoma, 2-9 December 2020. The papers were:  “Agropastoralists and rice commercialisation in Kilombero valley, Tanzania”  for TSAP and  “The effects of formal education and agricultural extension on rice productivity in Kilombero valley:  Implications for agro-industrial development in Tanzania. 

Feature photo credit: Calvin Gwabara, SUAMEDIA