By Agnes Nantambi
Agricultural economists have been urged to form a strong lobby group to advocate for increased funding to the agricultural sector.
Speaking at a dinner organised by the Uganda Agricultural Economists Association at Fairway Hotel last week, the executive director of the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), Dr. Samuel Katambi, said forming a strong thinktank by agricultural economists can influence policy making at government level.
The budget allocation to agriculture as a share of the national budget remains low, with the sector receiving 3.4% (sh403.1b) of the national budget in the 2013/14 financial year.
Public spending on the sector is still too low to meet the country’s commitment to the Maputo Declaration of 10%. “We are lamenting about financing in agriculture, but we don’t have pressure groups.
Our farmers are disorganised and scattered. An association like this one can be a pressure group that can influence policy change,” Katambi said.
He said the NAADS secretariat will be working towards strengthening the association to make it a platform where they can engage with the Government through dialogue to increase financing for the sector and also stimulate debate.
He noted that in others economies, resource allocation is a result of pressure from strong lobby groups. Katambi underscored the need to increase investment in agricultural research, most especially in crop science, livestock, natural resource management and soil fertility management as basics for a strong foundation for agriculture development.
“Agricultural research is the back bone of the sector. Unless we invest adequately in research, we shall have problems because research and extension are the two functions of agriculture in the public sector,” he said. Prof. Bernard Bashaasha, the vice-chairman of the association, cited eight areas that require policy focus and investment to foster development in the agriculture sector.
These include agricultural research, technology dissemination and farmer education, use of fertilisers, agriculture education, farm power, irrigation, reducing postharvest losses and agriculture credit.
He called for resource allocation to establish and equip additional think tanks to undertake, package and disseminate quality policy analysis work. Dr. Peter Ngategize, the chairman of the association, called for cluster development to enhance micro competitiveness.