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May 17, 2008

Tanzania still to decide on biofuels

The Tanzanian government has said it is yet to decide whether to sanction the local production and consumption of biofuel or continue using other sources of energy.

Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives deputy minister David Mathayo said that the government was preparing a policy on biofuel production and how much land to allocate for the purpose. He said the government would exercise the maximum caution on the process "lest posterity is denied access to land on which the survival of humankind so heavily depends."

Mathayo made the remarks shortly after opening a forum on the development of agriculture and food industry innovation in Africa. He said the government would make its decision public at the end of this year after a thorough research to see how the country would benefit from biofuel, particularly by keeping food crises at bay.

"nvestors have been coming and asking for land for biofuel production. It is a good idea and the investment will create job opportunities and improve the economy through the sale of the fuel," noted the minister.

However, he warned: "These benefits notwithstanding, we must be careful about our food security. We should not let biofuel production be done in areas suitable for food production."

He said many African countries were facing food problems, while there was competition in the world in cultivating biofuel crops rather than selling food to needy countries.

"Food security is now a pressing issue everywhere, with millions of poor people now spending a greater share of their meagre incomes on basic staples," Mathayo noted. He called on the forum to facilitate learning on key practices and policies "that can enable or hinder innovation and the development of technology in agriculture, the food industry, rural energy and physical environment."

He said Tanzania was in great need of education for farmers, particularly on the importance of using quality seeds and fertiliser. "The government will have trained 5,000 extension officers by the end of 2011, which means at least one for every ward, specifically to educate and sensitise farmers on new farming methods like the use of tractors."

IPP Media

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