I thank the sub-committee for giving me an opportunity to make a presentation on Ireland's development programme in Tanzania. I thank the Chairman for his kind words about the programme. We had the honour of hosting members of the sub-committee during their visit to Tanzania in July 2008. They are familiar with the work of the embassy.
I would like to put Ireland's engagement in Tanzania in context. Ireland and Tanzania have enjoyed excellent bilateral relations for over 30 years. That was demonstrated by the sub-committee's visit to Tanzania, as well as the more recent visits by the Tanzanian Prime Minister, Mr. Mizengo Pinda, to Ireland and by the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Power, to Tanzania. Prior to independence in the 1960s, Irish missionaries were engaged in providing health and education services in Tanzania and they continue this good work.
Since independence Ireland and Tanzania have shared a common foreign policy approach favouring the peaceful settlement of disputes, a rule bound international order and support for the United Nations. We both supply troops to UN peacekeeping operations. Tanzania has taken the lead in pushing for the United Nations to deliver development aid as one. Ireland is supporting this system wide coherence effort, both at UN headquarters and in Tanzania.
In the region the east African community has emerged as a contributor to greater stability. As a one time host to more than 1 million refugees, Tanzania, while remaining a peaceful nation and emerging as a democracy, has paid a significant price for conflicts outside its borders. Its decision to naturalise more than 160,000 Burundi refugees, a process that is nearly completed, is unprecedented in the scale of its generosity. Ireland has supported this process.
Tanzania has had some notable development successes recently, with real GDP growth of approximately 7% per annum. This has occurred in a stable macroeconomic environment and inflation generally has been kept in check. Mortality among children aged under five years has declined by nearly 40% since 1999. Tanzania's national adult HIV prevalence has declined and malaria and tuberculosis are being successfully tackled. Primary education enrolment, with gender parity, is in excess of 95%. However, very real development challenges remain. In the 2009 UN human development report Tanzania was ranked 151 out of 182 countries. Life expectancy remains low at an average of just 55 years. Population growth at 3% per annum places huge pressure on fragile social services and periodic drought has led to food insecurity. In addition, despite impressive growth rates, poverty levels have fallen only slightly from 35.7% in 2001 to 33.3% in 2007.
Achieving more poverty reducing growth requires accelerated efforts and will be the overriding objective of the new national strategy for growth and the reduction of poverty, known as MKUKUTA, due by the middle of this year. Ireland's aid programme in Tanzania is responding to these challenges in partnership with the Government of Tanzania and other development partners. Aligned with the current MKUKUTA, Irish Aid focuses its support at sectoral level on rural livelihoods and growth, health services and good governance, particularly at local level. HIV-AIDS and gender are also addressed. As members will be aware, progress on gender equality in Tanzania is fundamental to achieving the millennium development goals. Among development partners, Ireland leads on gender based violence. Our aid programme further assists the realisation of MKUKUTA outcomes through supplying general budget support, GBS. National level dialogue with the Government of Tanzania and close co-ordination with other donors are hallmarks of the way we work. Tanzania is a leader in implementing the Paris principles.
As members have been provided with a briefing on our programme, I will confine myself to highlighting one key sectoral area, namely, agriculture. Agriculture holds the key to reducing poverty in Tanzania and achieving the millennium development goal of reducing poverty by one half by 2015. The sector employs up to 80% of the labour force and more than 56% of farmers are women. However, like elsewhere, agriculture has been neglected both by the government and the international community for decades. Recently, however, the Government of Tanzania has placed renewed and welcome emphasis on this vital sector. Nonetheless, challenges remain. Agriculture is predominantly rain fed and at subsistence level, with limited use of technology and poor access to markets. Nearly all of the 5 million smallholder farm households still rely on the hand hoe as their sole farming implement. The vulnerability of small farmers has been highlighted by the drought that has hit Tanzania and the east Africa region for the past three years. This has resulted in 1.5 million people facing serious food shortages in Tanzania alone. Annual food inflation increased to more than 18% last year. The Tanzanian Government stepped in and provided nearly 57,000 tonnes of grain as food relief between November 2009 and January 2010.
Ireland, together with just four other donor partners, is working in partnership with the government through the agriculture sector development programme to address these vulnerability challenges. The key objectives of the programme are to generate higher agricultural productivity and improve farm incomes. The programme is expanding the area of agricultural land under irrigation, improving advisory extension services which currently reach only 35% of farmers and increasing the availability of improved seeds, fertiliser and mechanisation. In its third year it is beginning to show results. Its aims and objectives fit very well into the framework of the White Paper on Irish Aid and recommendations of the hunger task force. In excess of 40% of our programme in Tanzania is involved in implementing the recommendations of the task force in the areas of food security, agriculture and nutrition.
Complementing our work with the Government of Tanzania in the public sector is our support for the private sector. Increasing productivity requires a market if income is to grow. We are working with the NGO, TechnoServe, to help 3,500 smallholder cocoa farmers to boost their incomes by up to 60% per annum. When I asked one farmer last October what she would do with the extra money she expected to earn from her crop, she replied that she would pay the school fees for her children, buy some meat for her family to eat and buy herself a new kanga or traditional dress. These are modest ambitions, yet they are hugely significant for the farmer in question and her family. Helping small farmers to upgrade their cocoa product and link it with international standards and markets is enabling families to achieve their ambitions.
Through the agriculture sector development programme an optimal policy framework is in place for Tanzania to increase its agricultural production. The challenge is to ensure adequate investments are made in the sector. Recognising this, the Tanzanian Government launched a new drive, known as "Kilimo Kwanza" or "Agriculture First", to promote private sector involvement and investment in agriculture. This new initiative is complementary to the agriculture sector development programme and will place greater emphasis on increasing financing, commercialisation, agri-processing and marketing. Ireland, through its current role as chair of the agriculture donor group, is playing a key role in engaging government and development partners on this initiative. We have advocated for continued priority to be given to small farmers. During the annual budget support review we led on the formulation of a joint government-donor partner discussion paper on Kilimo Kwanza and pro-poor growth.
Ireland is playing a key role in advocacy on pastoralism. I am pleased that Oxfam representatives, with whom we work closely, are present to provide details of the excellent work they are doing in this and other areas in Tanzania. Pastoral communities provide livelihoods for approximately 1.5 million people in Tanzania but, like other vulnerable communities in Africa, they face challenges in gaining access to resources and seeking recognition for their way of life. Ireland has leveraged its role in national level dialogue with the Tanzanian Government to highlight the position of pastoralism in Tanzania. With the NGO, Care International, we have a programme which builds the capacity of pastoral communities to advocate for and seek their rights.
I have used agriculture to demonstrate how Ireland works to support government and, at the same time, supports a number of non-governmental organisations in the private sector to achieve the millennium development goals. The model we use in agriculture mirrors our engagement in other areas.
With a significant proportion of our funding in Tanzania channelled through Government systems, the question can be asked as to how we ensure accountability. While we are aware of the risks, we have been extremely active, in partnership with the government and other development partners, in mitigating them. Not only are we engaged in ongoing dialogue with the Government at a policy level, but we are also active in supporting domestic accountability systems. Tanzania's system of domestic accountability has been greatly strengthened in recent years. For example, the parliament has become very active in holding the government to account. In 2008 a Prime Minister and two Government Ministers were forced by the Parliament to accept political responsibility for their actions and resign. Parliamentary committees, of which three or four are chaired by opposition members, are scrutinising public accounts and holding accounting officers to account. Sub-committee members may recall that the chair of the public accounts committee in Dodoma explained that his committee acted "as an insurance policy for the Irish taxpayer" and Tanzanian citizens. The office of the comptroller and auditor general has been strengthened and its independence assured. The media and civil society organisations are taking lead roles in holding those in authority to account.
Ireland supports all of these efforts through our programme, strengthening parliamentary oversight, the media and civil society. Our full-time auditor participates in a broad range of processes ensuring accountability mechanisms will continue to be strengthened. We chair the accountable government development partners group. The anti-corruption bureau has been significantly strengthened and its work is yielding results. It is fair to say the opportunities for grand corruption are being closed off systematically in Tanzania and this drive is coming from the very top. President Kikwete and Prime Minister Pinda are leading the way. Corrupt officials are being pursued, with a total of 17 grand corruption cases making their way through the courts.
This is a short outline of our programme in Tanzania. My team and I will be happy to answer any questions members may have.