East African Legislative Assembly member Mathias Kasamba is working on a motion to compel EAC partner states to create a body to deal with regional food security and nutrition.
Mr Kasamba said the motion will help fast-track formation of the institution to spearhead research, food standardisation and distribution logistics.
He said the EAC was strengthening co-operation at political, economic and infrastructural levels and forgetting about the integration of the agrarian states.
As a result, the bloc is a net importer of maize, wheat and rice worth $2 billion a year, with some partner states “consuming more bread than India, which is home to 1.2 billion people.”
Mr Kasamba was speaking at the launch of the Eastern Africa Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (EAPA – FSN) in Arusha on Monday.
Kenya, with only about 50 million people, spends about $400 million every year to import wheat.
Mr Kasamba said with East Africa being so rich in agricultural potential, leaders ought to use the resources to improve the quality of life.
The Eala MP accused leaders of concentrating on physical infrastructure development instead of investing in agriculture.
However, Tanzanian Speaker Job Ndugai said that poor infrastructure in the region was equally to blame for food insecurity and malnutrition in the region.
“While some parts of the region lack food, other areas have plenty of it. But owing to infrastructure being in a pathetic state, it’s hard to transport it,” he said.
Chimimba Phiri, the Food and Agriculture Organisation sub-regional co-ordinator for Eastern Africa and a representative to the AU Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, said at least 7.1 million households in the region are expected to experience food gaps in agro-pastoral areas during the October to December rainy seasons.
According to FewsNet, about 12 million people were internally displaced in Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan by mid-March, and an additional 5.3 million refugees from these countries are in camps in Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.
Dr Phiri urged countries to formulate and apply national and regional agricultural investment plans and other policies and legislative frameworks. “Governments' efforts to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 are painfully slow,” he said.
The first elected EAPAFSN chair, Abdi Ali Hassan from Somalia, said of the 236 million pupils suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition worldwide, 50 per cent were in Africa and 32 per cent in East Africa.
He blamed the situation on failure to put food security and nutrition on national agendas, lack of streamlined polices and legislation for land tenure and access to financial resources, conflicts, civil insecurity, terrorism, climate change, displacement and immigration.
Margaret Agama-Anyetei, head of social affairs at the AU Commission, asked member states to silence the guns and create stability.