November 8, 2002

More Tanzanians now live above Poverty Level

A recently released report on Tanzania's Household Budget Survey (HBS) conducted in 2000-01 shows that although agriculture is the main source of cash income in Tanzania, the proportion of households depending on agriculture has however dropped from 67 to 62 percent during a ten-year period from 1991-2002. But the country is still prone to sporadic famine.

According to monthly report of Famine Early Warning Systems Net on Tanzania for September, households dependence on business, wages and salaries, and remittances for cash incomes has increased. In 1991-92 and at present, about 41 percent of households have depended specifically on food crops to earn cash income. A 2000-01 Household Budget Survey, published in July, compared current Tanzanian incomes to those of 1991-92, revealing an increase, in real terms of 17 percent. Growth was higher in Dar Es Salaam than in other places, especially the rural areas. In both cases proportions of household expenditure devoted to food declined from 69 to 61 percent between 1991-92 and 2000-01.

To ensure that food security is maintained following a drop in the ratio of farmers to market dependents, the report calls on the government to put in place strategies to increase farmer productivity and real incomes of market dependents. "Improving farmers' access to and use of better and more affordable technologies, such as oxenization and high yielding seed varieties with tolerance to pests and diseases, can improve their productivity. Better access to credit can help both farmers and households engaged in business to improve performance of their activities," the report says.

The same report showed that between 1991-92 and 2000-01, household consumption rose in real terms by around 17 percent. However, the consumption gap between Dar Es Salaam and rural areas widened with increases registering at 47 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Over the past 10 years, average monthly expenditures in Dar Es Salaam rose from TShs 14,900 (about TShs 960 to the US dollar) to TShs 22,000, while rising more modestly in rural areas, from TShs 7,600 to TShs 8,500.

Computation of statistics from all over the country shows a considerable decline in food expenditure as proportions of total household expenditure in both the urban and rural areas. Overall, the report says that the proportion dropped from 69 to 61 percent between the two HBSs, but the proportion of household expenditure spent on food is higher in rural areas than in Dar Es Salaam. This indicates that poverty remains overwhelmingly rural; 87 percent of the poor are living in rural areas.

The report further says that the above average poverty levels were noted for households that depend on agriculture, particularly those relying on sale of livestock, adding that "diversification remains an important way by which rural households try to raise their incomes".

The proportion of Tanzanians that fall below the food poverty line, defined as the minimum spending per person needed to provide 2,200 calories a day for one month based on the foods consumed by the poorest 50 percent of the population, decreased from 22 to 19 percent over the past 10 years. The report shows that the proportion of Tanzanians who fall below the basic needs poverty line - which is the food poverty line adjusted to incorporate other basic needs such as clothes - decreased from 39 to 36 percent. The report, however, stated that the decline is not considered large enough to be statistically significant.

FEWS Net show that the food security outlook in Tanzania for the coming three months is good. "This is evidence by ample grain stocks held on farm, by traders, and by the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR). In addition, there are some amounts of root and tuber crops and banana on farmers' fields". But wholesale prices for maize on monitored markets in the major maize producing regions including Rukwa, Mbeya, and Iringa in the Southern Highlands, and Dodoma in Central Tanzania were higher this month than their five-year period of 1997-2001 averages. Also, on some other markets such as Kilimanjaro and Tanga, northern Tanzania, wholesale prices for maize have already started to rise at earlier dates relative to their five-year average trends. "If these trends continue and are coupled with limited opportunity for market dependents to diversify their sources of income, food security may be jeopardized," the report says. It adds that facing higher food prices, the market dependents might have to reduce the quantities they buy or switch to cheaper alternatives. Also, at rising prices, "farmers can be stimulated to sell more to earn cash, compromising their near future food requirements". (African Church Information Service)

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