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EAC budgets not honouring Maputo declaration on agriculture

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th May 2015 04:05 PM

The matter of agriculture being the backbone of the East African Community (EAC) economies is now common knowledge.

EAC budgets not honouring Maputo declaration on agriculture

The matter of agriculture being the backbone of the East African Community (EAC) economies is now common knowledge.


  OPINION  


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By Stephen Muchiri

The matter of agriculture being the backbone of the East African Community (EAC) economies is now common knowledge.

In the same respect, the sector deserves special attention and prioritisation especially during national budget’s planning processes. Cognizant of the role played by agriculture in mitigating household poverty and food insecurity, the heads of the EAC partner states became parties to the signing of the 2003 Maputo and 2014 Malabo declarations.

This was as a renewal of commitment to ensure the implantation of 10% national budgetary allocations to agriculture.

However, it is ironic that EAC states have consistently allocated less that 10% of their total budget the sector that employs 80% of the total workforce and contributes 30% to the block’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In the face all these challenges, we still have hope that the 10% can be realised in the respective budgets about to be presented.

Judging from the EAC partner states’ budgetary review report for 2014/2015 fiscal year conducted by the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), a lot needs to be done across the region if the two declarations are to be beneficial. EAFF is a regional farmer organisation with members in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Sudan, representing more than 20 million smallholder farmers.

The EAFF report recommends that the partner states review their budgetary allocations to the sector to ensure agriculture is safeguarded and improved. Overall, at 7.2%, Tanzania allocated the biggest chunk of its absolute expenditure to agriculture followed by Uganda at 6.5%, Rwanda ranked third with 6.2% and Kenya lagged behind in fourth place with a little over half the promised amount, allocating only 5.8%.

According to the report, Uganda increased the agriculture sector budget from sh382.7b to shs440.7b.
 

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However, the Government has terminated exemption on interest income on agricultural loans. The measure is expected to generate sh25.1b. The list of terminated exemptions include the supply of feeds for poultry and livestock, supply of agriculture and diary machinery and supply of packaging materials to the diary and milling industries.

On the other hand, termination of the exemptions on VAT zero-rated supplies include the supply of cereals, grown, milled or produced in Uganda; supply of processed milk and milk products; supply of machinery and tools for agriculture and supply of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and hoes.

To worsen the situation, in spite of the minimal allocations set aside for agriculture-related activities, these budgets are never fully utilised because of stringent procurement and poor management.

It makes little sense that these funds remain unused at the end of the financial year, while agriculture-related programmes are uncompleted. The fact that the EAC needs to be reminded by the report that utilisation of resources allocated to the sector should be properly spent and accounted for by respective officers is disconcerting.

The report urges that formal and legally established follow-up mechanisms by the public accounts committee outside the treasury memorandum be fast-tracked. The auditor generals of the respective EAC countries and government audit mechanisms have a role in tracking the budgetary allocation.

If need be, the national assemblies that are mandated by the constitution can be enlisted to help achieve this goal. The EAC governments audit mechanism can, however, conduct further investigations and establish the extent of the implementation of the recommendations of the previous years’ reports.

Additionally, there is need to form a consortium to monitor and lobby to have the EAC governments make favourable allocations towards agriculture. Here, government bureaucracies need to be minimised to ensure that funds allocated are used, instead of having funds left over at the end of each financial year.

The issue of involving farmers in the budget making process must be given due consideration. We must all work with a concerted effort to make agriculture more productive for a better Africa.

Further, with the little emphasis given to the sector, it follows that EAC economies continue to rely on rain-fed agriculture, depriving the farmers of the ability to adequately plan due to unpredictable rainy seasons.

We still need to adopt a more sustainable approach to food security by shifting to irrigation-driven farming and increase the budgetary allocation towards irrigation farming. Use of outdated technology in agricultural production, should be discarded and modern science embraced instead.

Mechanisation and use of information and communication technology should be introduced to boost production even for small scale farmers. In addition, farmers should be equipped with the right knowhow as they tackle crop and other related diseases.

More attention should be directed towards reducing pre and post-harvest losses currently accounting for 60% of the total farm losses.

The writer is the executive director of EAFF
smuchiri@eaffu.org
 

EAC budgets not honouring Maputo declaration on agriculture

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