Even as hunger, famine, and inflation ravage the East African region, the bloc is still hesitant to fund agriculture and has allocated the sector less than 0.01 percent of its budget.
In the draft budget for financial year 2022/2023, East African Community partner states allocated agriculture a paltry $6,750 (0.01 percent) out of total contributions of $59.3 million.
A ministerial session of the 15th Meeting of the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security (SCAFS) held on March 25 in Dar es Salaam, blamed this partly on reliance on donor funding.
Over the past five years, development partners have funded more than 90 percent of the sector’s budget.
“More than 70 percent of the industries in the region and over 65 percent of the traded commodities are agro-based. We urge partner states to increase funding for the sector,” said Christophe Bazivamo, the EAC Deputy Secretary General - Productive and Social Sectors.
“Although the agricultural sector provides many employment opportunities, the region exports between 400,000 and 700,000 jobs every year and continues to import agricultural commodities and products such as rice and wheat which can be produced within the region,” he said.
Mr Bazivamo said the EAC was commited towards creating an enabling environment for development of the agricultural sector, particularly catalysing increased agricultural production, and productivity to achieve nutrition and food security, enhancing performances of agricultural value chains and agribusinesses as well as promoting regional and international trade of agricultural produce the processed agriculture commodities.
“I note with concern the EAC is not doing enough to reduce post-harvest losses, which currently stand at 61 percent as a result of lack of strategies to sustain the preservation of harvest,” said Bazivamo.
The agriculture meeting revealed that EAC partner states have in the past five years failed to increase funding to the sector.
“The EAC partner states are yet to meet the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)/Malabo commitments as reflected in the 3rd Biennial Review Report launched in March,” said Dr Francis Owino, Kenya’s Agriculture Principal Secretary, who chaired the EAC Agriculture sector Ministerial meeting on behalf of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.
The 3rd Biennial Review Report was finalised in 2021 and submitted to the AU General Assembly in February.
The 2014 Malabo Declaration of the African Heads of State and Governments requires that the sector be funded by at least 10 percent of each country’s annual budget.
For the third consecutive time, only Rwanda with a score of 7.43 was “on track” in the region and was ranked as the best performing country on the continent in meeting CAADP/Malabo commitments against 7.28 benchmark score.
At the regional level, Tanzania was ranked second with a score of 6.14 followed by Uganda (5.89); Burundi (5.63) and Kenya (5.62).
While other partner states were considered “progressing well”, South Sudan with a score of 2.88 was “not on track”.
However, at an average score of 5.60, the EAC region is “progressing well” in implementing CAADP/Malabo commitments compared to other regional economic blocs.
Criticism from farmers
Kenya allocates less than three percent of its budget to agriculture, eliciting criticism from farmers.
“Funding the agriculture sector in Kenya has been a joke, all the time. If we are always talking about agriculture being the backbone of the economy, I don’t know why we should always be reminded to feed our people,” said Kipkorir Menjo, director of Kenya Farmers Association.
“People must be food secure and it is not something we have to be reminded by donors or somebody else.”
Apart from playing a role in ensuring food and nutrition security, agriculture provides critical support to other sectors such as manufacturing through the provision of raw materials.
However, the sector is facing various constraints such as adverse weather conditions; insect and crop diseases; slow implementation of flagship projects to support irrigation; and slow progress in promoting value addition.