Over the past few weeks, there has been discussion about a project in Tanzania involving AgriSol Energy. It is an exciting project meant to help Tanzanians implement modern, sustainable agricultural practices.
As a native Iowan, lifelong farmer and a partner in AgriSol, I want to assure you that our work in Tanzania is meant to improve the lives of Tanzanians — by increasing food and economic security.
While this project is a business venture, it is also a way to help people in need. You may be surprised to learn that total agricultural production in western Tanzania is very low despite millions of acres of arable farmland. We are committed to increasing yields, providing access to quality storage facilities and fostering transparent markets — for our project as well as local farmers.
Our prospective project in Lugufu consists of about 34,000 acres and will be cultivated to produce corn, soybeans, animal feed, meats and cooking oils. The project will be developed for more than 10 years, and require an investment of approximately $100 million.
By working with local farmers to raise their agricultural production, we help them increase their overall standard of living and improve their health.
Through this experience, AgriSol hopes to develop a new agricultural investment model to be used in other underdeveloped global markets — combining a modern agricultural operation with supported small farmer and community extension programs.
When the project began, AgriSol looked into the development of 30 potential sites nominated by Tanzanian officials. After our initial analysis, three parcels were selected. Of the three, Lugufu no longer contains refugees while the sites in Katumba and Mishamo still host refugees.
Refugees in Katumba and Mishamo are currently in the process of being resettled through an arrangement brokered by the United Nations Refugee Agency. This agreement occurred before AgriSol’s involvement and, in light of the delayed resettlement of the refugees; we have halted all of our development activities in the area. I want to assure you that under no circumstances will AgriSol facilitate or advocate the removal of any refugee, from any land.
As a leader in agricultural education, AgriSol engaged Iowa State University to provide advice based on their experience with similar programs in Uganda. The University’s assistance early on was important and greatly appreciated.
However, due to my appointment to the Iowa Board of Regents in 2011, Iowa State University has decided to step back from direct involvement in the project. AgriSol will work with other organizations to continue building the foundation for our extension programs.
Our project in Tanzania is about confronting famine and hunger in an effort to break the vicious cycle of poverty and help the people of Tanzania create a better life for themselves and their communities.
In the words of Norman Borlaug, a great humanitarian and native Iowan, “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.”