Financing the agricultural sector in the East African Community is a key factor that could contribute to the stability and subsequent food security in the bloc.
In June 2014, an African Union Summit was held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. On this day, heads of State and Government adopted a remarkable set of concrete agriculture goals to be attained by 2025.
The document is commonly referred to as the Malabo Declaration. In the declaration, the summit noted that that hunger and malnutrition are major causes of poverty and underdevelopment in Africa by causing poor health, low levels of energy, and mental impairment, all leading to low productivity and low educational attainment all of which can in turn lead to even greater hunger and malnutrition, thereby creating a viscous cycle.
The heads of states therefore committed to investment finance, both public and private, to agriculture.
“To this end we resolve to uphold our earlier commitment to allocate at least 10% of public expenditure to agriculture, and to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness; to create and enhance necessary appropriate policy and institutional conditions and support systems for facilitation of private investment in agriculture, agri-business and agro-industries, by giving priority to local investors; and to fast-track the operationalization of the African Investment Bank, as provided for in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, with a view to mobilizing and disbursing investment finance for priority agriculture related investment projects.” The declaration reads in part.
The African states set a target of 2025 to achieve some of the key goals in the declaration geared towards improving the performance of the Agricultural sector in the continent.
According to data from the East African Community, agriculture is already accounting for about 36% of GDP in the EAC economy, the agriculture sector still retains a lot of untapped potential, specifically for commercial farming.
“Agriculture is a sector that is central to the EAC economy, contributing between 24 and 44% of GDP in the five Partner States, while also accounting for the livelihood of about 80% of the region’s population. The key to sector growth, however, lies in a shift from subsistence to commercial farming. Opportunities for large-scale commercial farming exist in the region for a wide variety of food and cash crops.” A statement from the secretariat reads.
There are various investment opportunities that lie in the agribusiness sector in east Africa. They include: Apiculture, Coffee, Cotton, Forestry products, Fruits, Grains, Nuts and Oil seeds, Livestock, Poultry, Sisal, Sugar, Tea and Tobacco.
Recently, small scale farmers under the aegis of the East and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF) have planned to petition the EAC Heads of State to galvanize for increased financing for agricultural sector in the EAC region to ensure food security. This is inclined to reduce poverty and increase public awareness on the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The officials of the ESAFF as a plan to push for increased funding, paid a courtesy call on Rt Hon Ngoga Karoli Martin, Speaker of EALA, in Arusha and made a plea for the petition, when ready, to be forwarded for the attention of the Summit of EAC Heads of State.
A statement from the East African Legislative Assembly noted that Hon Ngoga assured the ESAFF officials of the Assembly’s support towards initiatives that leverage agriculture to ensure food security and raise the region’s GDP.
“We will work closely with the EAC Council of Ministers and the EAC Secretary General to ensure the petition, once done by ESAFF is given attention and channeled appropriately to the EAC Heads of State.” Hon Ngoga said adding that time is now ripe for the establishment of an institution dealing specifically with matters of agriculture and food security.
Implementing the Malabo Declaration
“The Assembly will champion Partner States to set aside public spending for agriculture at 10% as envisaged under the Malabo Declaration.” He noted.
Speaking on behalf of the Forum, Mr Alfayo Kurunah, a farmer from Kenya and board Member of ESAFF reiterated his organization was keen to collaborate with EALA in organizing a high-level meeting to deliberate on the status of commitment by Partner States in achieving the commitments under the Malabo Declaration.
According to Mr Kurunah, the meeting which is expected to bring together Ministers for Agriculture and Ministers for Finance from the Partner States, as well as legislators from the National Legislatures and EALA would lead to a regional position on the progressive implementation of the Malabo goals reflected to national budgets.
“We hope that this meeting would take place in the coming sitting of EALA in November or December 2018 and that the review will be done during the next agriculture summit in May 2019”, Mr Kurunah said.
The Malabo declaration of June 2014, hopes to accelerate agricultural growth and transformation. It among other things calls for commitment to ending hunger by 2025 by at least double productivity while focusing on inputs, irrigation and mechanization.
The Declaration further anticipates commitment towards enhancing resilience in livelihoods and production systems to climate variability and other shocks and to boosting intra-African trade in agricultural commodities and services by tripling intra-Africa trade in agricultural commodities and fast-track of the continental free trade area. Further envisaged is a commitment to halve poverty, strengthen inclusive Public-Private Partnerships on agricultural commodity value chains and creation of job opportunities for at least 30% of the youth in agricultural value chains.
EAC is doing quite well
According to the ESAFF, the EAC region is doing quite well, but has fallen short on budgetary allocation in the agriculture sector to reach the 10% target, ending hunger including malnutrition and stunting among children under 5 years whose statistics was deemed as shocking.
The Farmers organization thus put a strong case and emphasis for the region to focus its (EAC) industrialization on agriculture.
In attendance was the Chairperson of the EALA Committee on Agriculture Tourism and Natural Resources, Hon Mathias Kasamba and officials from ESAFF Members in the Partner States; Ms. Rachel Muyoboke, Apui Petit Peysant et Envirnement (APEE), Rwanda, Hakim Baliraine –ESAFF, Uganda, Obeid Girukwayo, ESAFF, Burundi, Justus Lavi Mwololo, Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum (KESSFF) andRichard Kipara, Mtandao wa Vikundi Vya Wakulima Tanzania (MVIWATA). Others were Martha Makenge, EACSOF and three officials from the ESAFF Secretariat, Joe Mzinga, Stella Henry and Irene Ngao.