(Editor’s note:?The following guest column is in response to Alan Guebert’s column printed Jan. 20, 20120
Over the past few weeks, there has been discussion about a project in Tanzania involving AgriSol Energy. As a lifelong Iowa farmer and a partner in AgriSol, I want to assure you that our business venture in Tanzania is meant to improve the lives of Tanzanians-by increasing food and economic security.
You may be surprised to learn that total agricultural production in western Tanzania is very low despite millions of acres of arable farmland. Our project is committed to increasing yields, providing access to quality storage facilities and fostering transparent markets.
When the project began, AgriSol looked into the development of 30 potential sites nominated by Tanzanian officials. After our initial analysis, three sites were selected. We are currently looking to move forward with one site in Lugufu because it contains no refugees.
Refugees in our other two potential sites, 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 because of the delayed resettlement we have halted our development activities in those areas. I want to assure you that under no circumstances will AgriSol facilitate or advocate the removal of any refugee, from any land.
Our prospective project in Lugufu consists of about 34,000 acres and will be cultivated to produce corn, soybeans, animal feed, meat and cooking oils. The project will be developed over 10 years, and require an investment of approximately $100 million. Working with local farmers, we will help to increase agricultural production, in turn improving their overall standard of living and 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 self-supported, small farmer and community Extension programs.
Early on, AgriSol engaged Iowa State University to provide advice based on its experience with similar programs in Uganda.
However, due to my appointment to the Iowa Board of Regents, 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 in an effort to break the vicious cycle of poverty and help the people of Tanzania create a better life.
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.”
Bruce Rastetter is co-founder and managing director of AgriSol Energy, chief executive officer for Summit Farms LLC., and a member of the Iowa Board of Regents.