Agriculture remains underfunded in East Africa

This Plan will help the region deal with food insecurity worsened by various threats including floods, recurrent droughts, fall army-worm and the worst locust infestation in decades that have destroyed crops and vegetation. PHOTO| FILE.

During the East African Community Agriculture Budget Summit last week, small scale farmers in member states expressed concerns over the agriculture sector that has remained under funded calling on the member states to meet the Malabo declaration.

“I acknowledge so many challenges that our small scale farmers in the region face including inadequate access to land, seasonal climatic changes, drought, floods, limited access to credit for investment,” said the speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Martin Ngoga during the summit.

The EALA speaker said that the lack of linkage between research and small scale farmers and COVID-19 pandemic has increased and likely to increase the suffering of the majority poor who are mainly people from the rural communities.

The chairperson of the Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmers (ESAFF) Hakim Baliraine called on EALA to take a proactive role in providing oversight on the EAC Agriculture Investment, “EALA should also ensure that the Malabo Biennial Review Report 2020 and results are seriously discussed at national and regional level.”

The Biennial Agriculture Review encourages good performance by member states in implementing the provisions of the Malabo Declaration.

The Malabo declaration calls for member states to allocate at least 10 percent of the annual budget to agriculture, the African Union Malabo declaration of June 2014 is aimed at accelerating agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity.

Last year the farmers’ forum presented a petition to the East African Community heads of state summit signed by one million farmers calling for allocation of 10% national budget to the agriculture sector, the Malabo declaration also calls for improved livelihood setting up eight goals by 2025. Among the goals of the declaration is the recommitment to enhance investment finance in agriculture by upholding 10% public spending budget and Operationalization of Africa investment bank.

“We expeditiously request the presence of all speakers of the National Parliaments to discuss the issues of financing the agriculture sector in the region,” said Mathias Kasamba an EALA member and a farmer.

In 2016 EALA passed a resolution for East Africa member states to fast-track the Malabo declaration by putting in place financial instruments which are responsive to the needs of small scale farmers.

Despite agriculture contributing to more than 30% of the region’s GDP, there have been a significant decline in the budget allocation by East African member states in agriculture sector.

African Union’s Malabo declaration aims to end hunger and reduce the poverty rate in the continent by a half in the year 2025.

Agriculture employs about 80 percent of the region’s 172 million people who live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood, Rwanda won the best overall Malabo Biennial Review Gold Award in Africa scoring the highest marks.

However no country was on track in the overall for enhancing investment finance in agriculture, with only Burundi considered to be on track in East Africa for government agriculture expenditure as of the percentage of total government expenditure which should be at least 10 percent.

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