Stakeholders in Uganda’s agriculture sector have voiced concern over a mix of uncoordinated policies and short-term interventions yet the sector requires longer-term measures to grow.
Representatives of farmers’ groups, agro-related civil society organisations, cooperatives, private sector as well as tax-analysts and economists are demanding a robust national policy backed up by longer-term measures.
These views were expressed at a review of the 2014/2015 budgets of the East African Community countries, organised by Eastern African Farmers’ Federation (EAFF).
The participants demanded for a new agricultural development pathway, especially for Uganda where regional and international measures have not been met. These include, among others, the Maputo declaration requiring all African Union member states to allocate 10 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product to agriculture.
The meeting convened at Uganda Cooperative Alliance headquarters in Kampala, was part of EAFF-sponsored analyses of the national budgets for an in-depth look at the allocations to agriculture. This included the short and long-term implications and policy recommendations.
Stephen Muchiri, the EAFF chief executive officer, told the participants that the analyses provide a forum where EAFF members interact with experts for input and discus insights from comparative studies in the five countries. “Experts have been engaged by EAFF to give professional support to the stakeholders so they can lobby for meaningful changes in their favour,” Muchiri said.
Makerere University’s Prof Julius Zzake, a soil expert, noted that Uganda prides herself in possessing fertile soils across its arable land, yet the cultivated part is exhausted. There are less vital nutrients to support productivity from which to reap satisfactory yields per unit area.
Caleb Gumisiriza, who represented Uganda National Farmers’ Federation, agreed that there is a gap for overall policy, institution and funding for rural development—under which agriculture would be catered for adequately.
“Agriculture requires catering for factors that facilitate the sector’s development. Issues of production and productivity, that is seeds, disease and pest-control, soil fertility, irrigation, post-harvest handling, processing for markets are areas of keen attention. But this is currently seriously lacking,” he said.
Progress a decade since the maputo declaration
A decade has passed since African Union (AU) heads of state committed to the Maputo targets in 2003, and the results are decidedly mixed. Fewer than 20 per cent of countries have fulfilled either of their commitments (10 per cent of budget to agriculture, six per cent growth). However, many countries are making progress. More than 30 have signed the CAADP compact, pledging to develop national agriculture through defined investment plans.
At least 19 countries have launched fully costed and technically reviewed plans to accelerate agricultural development. Moreover, a number of high-performing countries illustrate the kind of success that is possible.
According to the latest statistics, nine of the 54 AU member states have met the Maputo target of spending 10 per cent of budgetary resources on agricultural and rural development. Only seven (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Senegal) have consistently met the target in most years. Across the continent, the share of total public expenditure allocated to agriculture has barely exceeded six per cent per year since 1995.
Overall, the public spending on agriculture declined significantly between 1980 and 2007. Increasing investment for agricultural research and development faces the twin challenges of inherently long lag times between initial investments and future benefits, and limited evidence showing high rates of return for national research programmes.