COVID-19 Impact on Rural Livelihoods: Tanzania Opinion Piece
Tanzania Government has taken several measures in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic including adopting measures advocated by WHO. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Tanzania did not impose lockdowns but advocated for social distancing, hand washing using soap and wearing of masks. Activities which attracted big crowds such as sports and all types of celebrations were banned. Schools and colleges were closed and citizens were warned not to undertake unnecessary travel. All flights to and out of Tanzania were suspended and cross-border movements to neighboring countries restricted to trucks carrying essential cargo only. All these measures had a big social-economic impact on the people.
The government through the Minister of Health was giving weekly updates on the spread of the virus in the country including the number of infections, recoveries, and deaths. However, since the beginning of June, they have stopped the updating and people have been advised to believe the COVID-19 to be like any other disease and they should learn how to live with it.
As from June, the government having satisfied itself that the COVID-19 cases have come down and more so on the impact of the pandemic to the economy, decided to lessen the restrictions and allowed social activities to continue, opened all schools, colleges and universities as well as allowing international flights to Tanzania.
The government of Tanzania has developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for each sector including tourism, airlines, hospitals, schools, universities, and public places to ensure that its citizen and other people visiting the country are secure from COVID-19. In offices, schools, churches, universities, supermarkets, hotels, tourist attraction areas, and other areas in which many people gather, they should ensure social distancing, wearing of face masks and handwashing facilities are available. Nevertheless, no enforcement laws or orders are in place for those who do not adhere to the SOP apart from threats that they will have their licenses revoked.
Despite the measures that the government has taken, the agriculture sector has faced several challenges including:
- Cross border restriction imposed by our neighboring countries
- Mitigation measures were taken by other countries
- Logistic challenges on international trade and businesses
- General reduction on peopleâ€™s purchasing power as the marketing of their produce is affected by low prices
Cross border restriction and horticultural outputs markets
Due to official and non-official restrictions imposed by neighboring countries, Tanzania smallholder farmers have been affected by poor markets for their produce. The horticultural produce like mangoes, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and other crops have been rotting at the borders. Sometimes neighboring countries were imposing restriction while the consignment is on transit to their country or waiting to cross borders. Due to delays in getting COVID-19 Clearance Certificates which may take more than seven days, most of the perishable good rot at the borders.
Figure 1: Mangoes rot at Horohoro Tanzania/Kenya border post in Tanga Region as reported by Independent Television of Tanzania.
Tanzania has farmer groups with contracts of selling agricultural products to companies in neighboring countries. Due to cross border restrictions they did not sell their produce thus affecting cash flows in the inputs value chain as they had received credit from Agrodealers in anticipation of paying after the sale of produce.
Loss of foreign earnings from cash crops
Tanzania as many other African countries depend heavily on exports of cash crops such as sisal, cashew, sesame, tobacco, cotton, flowers and purses to earn the much needed foreign exchange. Measures taken by other countries especially the lockdowns Europe and Asia resulted into reduced demand of the exports thus prices to smallholder farmers dropped beyond cost of production. A case in reference is the drop of price of sesame from TZS 2,500 last year to TZS 500 per kilogram year 2020.
Logistic challenges on international trade
Tanzania depends mostly on importation of agricultural inputs especially fertilizers, veterinary drugs and agrochemicals. During Covid-19 pandemic the logistics of importing these chemicals was tough hence delays in receiving consignments. However, the impact was not felt as there were enough stocks to meet seasonâ€™s needs.
General reduction of purchasing power
During the pandemic, the economy slowed down as a number of income generating activities were stalled. Social activities like wedding parties which had great demand of products like chicken and vegetables were no longer there thus affecting the whole supply chain from suppliers of poultry feeds, smallholder keepers, vendors etc. Those and the other supply chains of food products were income generating activities and the COVID-19 stopped the business thus affecting incomes of people and reduced their purchasing power. The real effect will be felt in the coming season as farmers may not have enough savings to purchase farm inputs
Isack Malipa â€“ Consultant SME
AFAP Country Office