Small Scale farmers from the seven member states of the East African Community (EAC) want governments in the region to invest the largest portion of their Agriculture budget to fund Agroecological farming system.
The farmers argue that although most African Countries signed the Malabo Declaration which calls for African states to allocate 10 percent of their budget to Agriculture sector, majority of the Countries including those in the EAC Economic block have not respected the protocol and where funds have been allocated to the sector, the largest portion goes to support the practices of Conventional Agriculture practices which is more expensive to small scale farmers in the region.
The farmers made the appeal in Arusha Tanzania during the recently concluded 6th EAC Agriculture farmers forum that was hosted by Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF) and East African Civil Societies among other stakeholders in the sector such as the media and policy makers from the region. The focus of the summit was “Agriculture and Climate Change.” Key on the discussion was the financing of the agriculture sector in the region.
During the meeting, farmers said that Agroecology farming practices is a comprehensive and integrated strategy that considers both ecological and social principles and concepts when designing and managing sustainable food and agricultural systems.
They added that Agroecology farming methods is environmentally friendly because it lessens greenhouse gas emissions, recycle resources, and gives priority to local supply chains.
In addition to addressing the need for socially equitable food systems where individuals may exercise choice over what they eat and how and where it is produced, Agroecology farming aims to maximize interactions between plants, animals, humans, and the environment.
Hakim Baliraine, the ESAFF Chairperson East Africa noted that, Agroecological farming relies solely on natural processes for input and recycles nutrients on-site to eliminate the use of non-renewable resources, resulting in the development of a more sustainable and self-sufficient farming system, but he observed that most EAC countries are not seeing the economic potential of the system instead they are focusing more on promoting Convectional Agriculture farming systems which typically destroy the ecosystem, degrade soil quality, and eradicate biodiversity.
He explained that for such opportunities to be exploited by farmers especially the smallholder farmers in the region, there’s need to invest more financial resources in the system such that farmers can benefit out of it.
Baliraine, further emphasized that agroecology has the power to transform food systems and make them more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive. He noted that there is a need for a radical transformation of food and agriculture systems to address convergent social, economic, health, and ecological crises.
At the same gathering Joe Mzinga, the Regional Coordinator at ESAFF, observed that Agroecology can transform the Regions food systems to make it more sustainable and resilient, and therefore more food sovereign.
Another farmer from Tanzania said that the Agriculture Investment required to switch from conventional synthetic chemical-based agriculture practices to Agroecology.
She added that Agriculture sector has the potential to up lift Small Scale farmers but the current system of Agriculture production being used in the region is too expensive to them who are practicing mainly subsistence.
Why farmers are more concerned with the Agricultural sector?
The sector employs the largest population of the people in the Community and the Smallholder farmers are the largest beneficiaries in the sector thus Agriculture sector contributes significantly to the National Economies of the countries in the region.
Fore stance in Uganda and other EAC Member States their citizens live in the rural areas; more than 78% of Ugandans reside in “rural” areas thus their major source of income is the Agriculture sector , making the sector vital in the region’s Economy.
In the region, the manufacturing industry is supported by agro-processing, which accounts for around 60% of its overall output. However, the sector is not growing at the required rate due to the detrimental effects of climate change and other factors.
Currently the food systems in the EAC are currently confronting a number of interconnected difficulties hence the need to adopt other systems that can confront some of the factors affecting the sector in the region. Farmers say that EAC region is in a prime position to build strong food production systems that are more resilient and sustainable to feed the increasing population in the Seven Member States.
It is estimated that 283.7 million people live in the EAC. Over 85% of women who work in the EAC’s agriculture sector, which is primarily subsistence farming, make up over 76% of the region’s total workforce. Since agricultural development is seen as a key pillar in achieving about 9 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Ending Poverty, Zero Hunger, among other Goals.
However, for such Goals to be achieved the EAC Governments should make sure that the Malabo Declaration which calls for all African States to Invest at least 10 percent of their budgets to Agriculture sector is fully implemented that is when funds will be available to support the Agricultural sector
The Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, which was adopted in 2014 at a meeting of heads of state in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, aims to transform the African agricultural sector and give the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) the chance to direct agricultural development on the continent.
Recently, the EAC area received an average overall performance score of 5.60 in the third CAADP Biennial Review (BR) compared to an overall benchmark score of 7.28, which is the required score for a region to be on track in executing the commitments made in the Malabo Declaration.
This shortfall shows that the region was not on track to meet the Malabo targets by 2025 in 2021. The EAC region’s ranking as the continent’s top functioning regional economic community is significant, nevertheless. Rwanda is still on schedule to fulfil its Malabo obligations. Although Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda showed some improvement in their performance between the second and third CAADP Biennial Reviews, the third BR found that all other partner states in the EAC region were not on track to meet their commitments.