Should 10% budget to Agriculture be legislated on?
On October 20, 2016, the 3rd East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) met in Zanzibar. It came up with a landmark resolution about agriculture in the region, which small scale farmers have been referring to as Z. The EALA resolution for domestication and fast tracking of the implementation of the African Union (AU) Malabo Declaration on Agriculture in EAC would mean a boom for smallholder farmers including crop growers, pastoralists, fishers and foresters.
In 2014 African Heads of State came up with the Malabo Declaration on accelerated Agriculture growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods. It was a commitment to end hunger and halve post-harvest losses by the year. Now the question is are the Malabo goals on track? For example, each African nation was to set aside 10% of its annual budget ton agriculture, unfortunately only few countries have been able to do that yet is not far away. Why make positive commitments that would transform the lives of majority Africans the not go through with implementation?
If our nations invested the ‘famous’ 10% in farming it was expected the sector would grow by 6% annually, which would in turn mean a lot for millions of farmers across the continent. The slow implementation of Malabo Declaration has kept farmers organizations and civil society on their feet, advocating for faster implementations. According to Morogoro Headquartered Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), it is almost half period of the Malabo implementation. Thus it’s paramount for small scale farmers and citizens of East Africa to see concrete annual plans starting from the next budget of July 2019/2020 that will ensure progressive and speedily realization of the Malabo Declaration 2014 and the EAC-EALA Zanzibar Resolution of October 2016.
A collaboration of about 17 other organization led by ESAFF has teamed up to champion for a small scale farmer’s petition seeking EAC Heads of State to lead the domestication of Malabo Declaration after the Zanzibar Resolution. Their petition seeking 1 million support signatures demands that EAC States ‘’ develops a multiyear action plan and make it mandatory (legal requirement) to progressively allocate and release at least 10% of national budget to agriculture sector....’’ among other things form the financial year 2019/2020
We all know the importance of agriculture that it has to be improved to end hunger and boost business, we know that we have children and undernourishment is a problem leading to stunting of children. I don’t want to talk of figures my editors can guess why. But really investing in agriculture for smallholder farmers will have multiplier effect in almost other sectors for example a farmer producing surplus is able to sell and pay for education and health of his/her children. S/He is able to build a good house and support the local economy as s/he pays direct and indirect tax to keep the nation moving forward.
According to FAO, Agriculture remains central to the world economy with over 60% of the world population depending of it for survival. No government can afford to ignore agriculture especially in Africa. After all no human being can survive without food. Personally, I feel the petition for making it legal to invest the 10% to Agriculture needs support of progressive forces.
The question should be; do we want prosperity for majority East African Citizens? If it is yes, then legal commitments to Malabo Declaration is a great way forward to help our nations walk their talk on Agriculture
NOTE: This story was first published in the Citizen Newspaper on 14th October 2018