The economy of Mbeya region, like that of other regions in the country mainly depends on subsistence agriculture. About 80 percent of Mbeya population depend on agriculture, and the rest of the people depend on livestock-keeping, fishing, small-scale industrial activities, shop-keeping, minor mining and other petty business. It is also reported that over 40 percent of the Regional Gross Domestic Product (RGDP) is derived from the Agriculture.
Mbeya region is one of the main food surplus regions in Tanzania. The region has an area of 6,362,200 Ha. of which 3,960,000 Ha. are suitable for agriculture and livestock keeping. However, only an average of 1,3000,000 Ha. are cultivated annually for both food and cash crops. About 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood.
The region also produces surplus food (maize, paddy, potatoes, pulses and green vegetables) to the tune of 350,000 tones a year, which in most cases the region exports to other regions like, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Singida and the Lake Regions
It is the major staple food in Mbeya region. For the past five years (1990-1995) an average of about 220,000 Ha. of the arable land has been under maize production with an average production of 2.5 tones per Ha. Maize is both a major food staple and the most inportant marketed crop in the region (in volume terms). Therefore, maize is of vital importance to the region and its level of production in the region is also an important determinant of the National Maize surplus. It is possible to cultivate maize in all areas of the region, although in some areas the comparative advantage may be greater than other parts of the region depending on varying climatic conditions. Table XXI highlights major food crops production trend between 1990/91 and 1994/95
Paddy is the second important cereal crop grown in Mbeya region. An average of 35,000 Ha. are under paddy production, undertaken by both small holders and parastatal organisations. The average yields per Ha. for the past five years (1990/95) has been 3.0 tons. Table XXI shows a fluctuating production trend of paddy between 1990/91 and 1994/95 seasons. For instance, production was 105,330 tons in 1990/91, and in 1991/92 season it went up to 120,945 tons. Production dropped to 108,000 tons in 1992/93 and slowly picked up to 113,430 tons in 1993/94. Production dropped to 108,000 tons in 1992/93 and slowly picked up to 113,430 tons in 1993/94.
Beans are important food pulses in Mbeya Region. For the past five years, an average of 30,000 Ha. have been under beans production, with an average yield of about 18,000 tons per annum (approximately 0.6 tons per Ha.) As seen from Table XXI beans production between 1990/91 and 1994/95 increased tremendously from a mere 13,667 tons to 30,909 tons. Nevertheless, production levels are still low especially when productivity stands at 0.6 tons per Ha.
Bananas are permanent food crops in the region, particularly in Kyela, Rungwe, Ileje and Mbeya Rural. An average of 25,000 Ha. are under banana crop in the Region. Production level is at 185,000 tons per annum on the average. According to Table XXI, the Region recorded the highest production level in 1993/94.
Bananas are permanent food crops in the region, particularly in Kyela, Rungwe, Ileje and Mbeya Rural. An average of 25,000 Ha. are under banana crop in the Region. Production level is at 185,000 tons per annum on the average. According to Table XXI, the Region
Oil seeds production in Mbeya region is increasingly becoming important. For the past five years about 8,000 Ha. have been under oil seeds production each year. By the year 2000, oilseeds production is expected to expand to 12,000 Ha. Food production in Mbeya region has to a large extent been also supplemented by the produce from the state farms as shown in Table XXII
Production of rice in Kapunga State Farm in 1990/91 was 2 percent of the overall rice production in Mbeya region. The percentage share increased to 9 percent in 1994/95 season. While rice production in Mbarali in 1990/91 was 10 percent of the total production in the region. Unlike the Kapunga percentage share which increased in 1994, Mbarali percentage share in rice production fell to only 7.
Mbeya region is one of the most important cash crops producer in Tanzania. The region produces over 12,000 tons of coffee, representing about 21 percent of total National coffee production. It produces also 1,800 tons of pyrethrum, equivalent to 48 percent of the National production. Similarly Mbeya region produces 35 percent of tea produced in the whole country. Tobacco and cotton are also produced to the tun of 1,000 tons and 6,000 tons respectively yearly. Table XXIII below shows production trend in major cash crops in the region.
Coffee is one of the major cash crops grown in Mbeya region especially in Mbeya, Mbozi, Rungwe and Ileje districts. About 4,000 Ha. have been under coffee for the past five years. Average production of 0.4 tons of coffee per Ha. has been the trend compared with maximum yield of 1.0 ton/Ha. while the average annual production has been about 12,000 tons. Productivity per Has. still needs to be improved. Production levels for coffee have been rising and falling over the years. For instance in 1990/91 season it was 16,996 tons, in 1991/92 it was only 14,694 tons, while in 1993/94 it rose to 17,954 tons, but fell again to 17,709 tons in 1994/95.
Another cash crop mainly grown in Chunya is tobacco and covers an area of about 1,500 Ha. Tobacco annual produuction is 1,000 tons with an average yield of 0.6 ton/Ha. Production levels have been marginally increasing as shown in Table XXIII between 1990/91 and 1994/95
Tea is among traditional cash crops grown in large scale in Mbeya region. Most of the tea estates are private. About 5,535 Ha. are under tea production, with a yield of 3,500 tons per annum. The average yield per tree has been 0.6 kgs, which appears to be much lower than the standard of 3 kgs per tree. However, some of the Private Tea Estates have 50 managed to raise productivity to 2.0 kgs per tree. Like other cash crops, the production levels of tea also fluctuates as indicated by able XXIII.
Pyrethrum also thrives well in Mbeya region and it is planted in an area almost covering about 2,500 Ha. of land. It's roduction however, has continued to decline over the years (1990/91 - 1994/95). Pyrethrum production in Mbeya declined by 60 percent from 4,427 tons in 1990/91 to only 1976 tons in 1994/95.
It is a prominent cash crop grown in Chunya District and some few areas of Mbeya (Madibira). The crop covers an area of 5,500 Ha. with annual average production of 6,000 tons. Table XXIII shows production of cotton in tons between 1990/91 and 1994/95.
CocoaCocoa is increasingly becoming an important cash crop in Kyela and Rungwe Districts. The area under Cocoa has increased from 5,022 Ha. in 1990/91 to 5,790 Ha. in 1994/95. However, production per unit still remains low - at 0.6 ton/ha. Table XXIII highlights production levels of cocoa between 1990/91 and 1994/95.
Several studies conducted in Mbeya region regarding irrigation schemes by FAO (1961), Commonwealth Secretariat (1978-1980), Government initiative (1979-1980) and RIDEP (1982) concluded their reports by recommending Usangu Plains, Rukwa Basin , Kanga River Basin and Ulambya Plain for irrigation programmes. In Usangu Plains (Mbeya Rural), large and small scale, farms were recommended especially in Mbarali, Kapunga, Kimani and Igurusi.
Table XXIV indicates that Mbeya region has high irrigation potential still under exploited. Kyela and Ileje districts have the smallest number of land under irrigation. It has not been very clear why only few hectares are being irrigated in Kyela and Ileje. One reason could be probably high investment costs involved.
Post harvest loses are in most cases caused by poor food storage facilities. Poor storage facilities usually render food crops vulnerable to pests, moisture or rodents attack. Table XXIX below highlights the situation pertaining to storage facilities in Mbeya Region. We would not give exactly the number of traditional granaries employed in each locality.
shortage problem, the problem may be just the quality of the facilities. It was also reported that most of the godowns are not being utilised fully due to trade liberalisation, whereby traders (crop buyers) take the bought crops to markets immediately after purchase. In this regard, the traders do not see the need to store the crops in the godowns and hence render them useless.
Input requirements for agriculture in Mbeya region in 1993/94 season were 50,000 tons of fertilizer, 1,317 tons of improved seeds, 6,000,000 litres and 6,500 tons of liquid of different chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. The supply of inputs in the region is always less than the actual requirement. Also, distribution system of inputs is inefficient as farmers get them late.
It is observed from Table XXVIII that in all years under discussion, the input requirements and actual supply are two different things. For instance in 1990/91, actual supply was less by 50 percent, in 1991/92 by 0.1 percent, in 1992/93 by 41 percent and in 1993/94 actual supply of inputs was less by 45 percent.
Hand-hoe is the main tool for peasant farmers in Mbeya region. Oxdrawn ploughs technology is significantly spreading among the people. Mbeya Oxzenization Project (CIDA) has played a good role in training and educating peasant farmers on the use of ploughs and animal drawn implements (ridges, cultivators, carts etc). Table XXV shows the type and number of the agriculture equipments available.