EAST African smallholder farmers are now calling upon East African Community (EAC) partner states to allocate adequate budget to agriculture development in their midst.
The farmers want the six partner states to devout at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture if they want to address poverty in their sovereign countries.
“We are really concerned about the state of poverty, malnutrition and hunger in the region, this is a result of ignoring agriculture, where our countries haven’t done enough,” observed Ms Agnes Kirabo, an Executive Director of Food Rights Alliance, on the sidelines of the fourth EAC Agriculture Budget Summit held at the EAC headquarters in Arusha, recently.
Ms Kirabo noted that East Africans should now be concerned of food imports’ bills being witnessed in the six partner states, where millions of people go to bed on empty stomachs.
“None of the six countries is on track to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, which are the leading causes of stunting and undernourishment,” she pointed out.
On his part, Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF) Chairperson Mr Hakima Baliraine urged the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to task the partner states to start prioritising the sector, which he said contributes dearly to the regional economies.
Mr Baliraine noted that the minimal contribution by the EAC member states to agriculture was likely to dent the six countries agricultural prospects if much emphasis would not be put on it.
“We acknowledge EALA’s support in spearheading this cause for the benefit of our farmers in the region,” he said. Earlier, an EALA Member of Parliament (MP), who also chairs the assembly’s Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, Mr Matthias Kasamba disclosed that national budgets allocated to agricultural have in recent been scaled down by the partner states.
According to the Ugandan lawmaker, agricultural budgets in the partner states were registering a tremendous decline from seven per cent to three per cent, viewing it as a great disservice to the East Africans.
“Realising the Malabo Declaration goals will become a tall order for the EAC, if we continue to fail giving agriculture the attention it deserves,” he added.
The summit, whose theme was Promoting an Inclusive, Farmer Centred EAC Agriculture Budget Process: Towards fulfilling Malabo Declaration Goals”, brought together Small Scale Farmers and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the East African region with the purpose of catalysing participation, and inclusion in public financing and policymaking for agriculture at the EAC level as well as enhance mutual accountability to benefit smallholder farmers, including women in the East African region.