The Tanzania SERA Policy Project (SERA) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future (FtF) Initiative is implemented by Booz Allen Hamilton. The SERA Project is focused on improving the policy environment for agriculture, and developing individual and institutional capacity to undertake policy analysis and advocate effectively for policy reforms. SERA began in April 2011, and completed the second full year of operation on September 30, 2013. This Quarterly Report, Quarter 3 (Q3) of SERA Project Year 3, covers the period from April 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014.
Q3 saw the achievement of an important milestone for SERA, with the approval of a contract modification on May 7, 2014, that substantially increased resources available for the remaining years of the Project. In addition to this milestone, the SERA team was very busy in Q3 with three teams of consultants conducting research, assessments, and training as well as SERA staff participating in a number of activities. The extremely busy schedule meant that some activities were delayed, and others delays were unavoidable because of the slow delivery of agreed activities by both government and private sector counterparts.
Improving the tax treatment of seed and seed packaging materials has been a priority for SERA since project inception and that effort culminated in a presentation by the SERA team to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) committee on taxation on April 15, 2014. SERA partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives (MAFC) and the Tanzania Seed Traders Association (TASTA) to present the case for tax exemption of seed packaging materials and improved tax treatment of seeds (Annex 1). No decision has been announced, but it was unfortunate that the petition for reduced taxes came during a year when the focus of the Ministry of Finance’s budget presentations was on reducing tax exemptions. If the improved tax treatment is not achieved this year, SERA will continue to strengthen the case and re‐submit next year.
A team of consultants from Associates for International Resources and Development (AIRD) visited Tanzania from May 12 – 23, 2014 to collaborate with SERA team to research policy issues for the Food Security Policy Options Paper being prepared for the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania (GoT). The activity is supported by the NAFAKA Staples Value Chain Project, in close collaboration with the MAFC. Three junior staff members from MAFC were invited to participate as a learning and capacity building activity, and the policy advisor of the MAFC Department of Policy and Planning (DPP) was included as a collaborator. The preliminary findings for that activity are attached as Annex 2 and AIRD will deliver a final report of findings and recommendations in Q4. The Policy Options Paper is scheduled to be presented to GoT in Q4.
The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and SERA team conducted a training session on the Food Basket Methodology (FBM) from June 9 – 20, 2014, for 12 staff from MAFC and two faculties from Sokoine University (SUA). The training focused on the estimation and use of the typical food basket costs for each of 19 regions in Tanzania mainland (see the training schedule in Annex 3). The training achieved its objectives and MAFC staff members are now better prepared to estimate and interpret food basket costs for individual regions. The SERA team will conduct follow‐up training in Q4 and the ERS team will return in Year 4 to assess results and begin training staff of the Zanzibar Department of Food Security and Nutrition (ZDFSN).
An assessment of data needs and availability for the Food Security Early Warning System (MUCHALI) was begun by a team of consultants and SERA staff on June 23, 2014, and will conclude in Q4. The MUCHALI Framework is the GoT’s early warning and disaster response activity, jointly directed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Disaster Management Department (DMD) and the Department of Food Security (DFS) of MAFC. The assessment will also review the objectives of MUCHALI and recommend changes as appropriate. The statement of work (SOW) for the activity is attached as Annex 4.
The draft Land Compensation and Benefits Sharing study undertaken by Landesa, with support and collaboration from SERA, was completed in April 2014 and will be presented at a national workshop with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development (MLHHSD). However, the activity has been delayed due to other work priorities at MLHHSD, and the referral of key findings of the study to expert legal review. The legal review was received on June 24, 2014, and will be finalized prior to discussions with MLHHSD. The workshop is targeted to take place in Q4. The executive summary of the report is attached as Annex 5.
The report on the Determinants of Tanzanian Maize Prices was completed and submitted on June 30, 2014. The research, econometrically estimated the contribution of regional and global maize prices, export bans, weather shocks, seasonality, fuel prices, and inflation on maize prices in 18 regions of mainland Tanzania using monthly data from 2004 to 2013. The results quantified the impact of the export ban on Tanzanian maize prices and also provided new insights into trade patterns and the impact of weather shocks and seasonality on maize prices. Estimation results showed that export bans increase the price impacts of weather shocks and seasonal price changes. A summary of the research is provided in Annex 6.
In addition to these activities, SERA team was involved in a number of workshops, meetings, and policy discussions. SERA staff participated in the monthly Policy Analysis Group meetings organized by the MAFC. The SERA Chief of Party (COP) met the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) on April 28, 2014 to discuss policy, met with USAID in June to discuss land policy, met with a commodity advisor from National Merchants Bank (NMB) Bank on June 3 to discuss rice policy issues and their impact on sector lending. Capacity building activities with the ZDFSN continued, with SERA staff traveling to Zanzibar for meetings. The SERA Project received a request to organize a Data Harmonization workshop to bring together GoT, private sector and other stakeholders to discuss better coordination and sharing of data on key commodities. This follows the successful work completed by SERA on duty‐free rice imports and the workshop has received strong support from USAID, DFS of MAFC, and the private sector. The activity is planned for Q4. On June 23, 2014, the SERA COP participated in Policy Discussions organized by the Agriculture Advisor of Big Results Now (BRN) and will follow up with analysis of imports on key food commodities. The SERA COP was invited to a Southern Agriculture Growth corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) Roundtable held on June 26, 2014, where he presented a review of policy constraints to the rice value chain.
Escalating requests for policy analysis and SERA participation in policy discussions slowed accomplishments of the work plan, but also reflect that SERA’s contribution and analysis is gaining high regards from the GoT and other stakeholders. They also highlight the changing role of SERA from primarily undertaking research on policy issue to participation in policy discussions at an early stage. This change is welcome, despite challenges presented to completing the established work plan. Working relationships with the Prime Minister’s Office, Big Results Now, and SAGCOT are especially strong, while relationships with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives are more difficult due to lack of support of the Ministry on agreed work activities. This was evident with the Food Basket Training for Ministry staff which did not receive sufficient priority from the Ministry. The launch of the SERA website was delayed due to slow progress in completing the final preparations of the site.