700,000 petition EAC leaders over agriculture budget

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Leaders of the regional farmers body hand over a petition, requesting the EAC governments to increase budget for the agricultural sector.

Arusha. Small scale farmers have petitioned the East African Community (EAC) bloc leaders to increase the agriculture budget in order to fight hunger.

They are demanding that the EAC states should allocate and disburse at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture sector.

"They should also operationalise the agriculture investment banks", officials of the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Farmers Forum (ESAFF) insisted in the petition.

The 500 page petition articulating the challenges facing the agricultural sector is addressed to the regional leaders through the key EAC organs.

On Wednesday, it was formally handed over to the Clerk of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) Kenneth Madete.

Copies of the same would also be handed over to the EAC secretary general and the chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, the policy organ of the Community.

"This petition is addressed to the EAC Heads of State through these organs for action. We want them to act decisively on agriculture", said Hakim Baliraine, the chairman of ESAFF.

According to him, the petition has been signed by about 700,000 small scale farmers from across the region. At least 2,000 others have signed online.

It could not be established if the petition would ever feature in the agenda of the EAC Heads of State Summit that will take place here today.

An Eala official told The Citizen that as far as the Assembly was concerned, the petition would have to go through various committees before it is forwarded to the higher bodies.

Mr. Baliraine from Uganda added that increased financing of agriculture will not only ensure food security but reduce poverty.

According to him,, budget allocation for agriculture was still low in the EAC states, except Burundi where it is 13.3 per cent.

In Tanzania, it is 5.3 per cent, 2.9 per cent for Uganda, 7.9 per cent (Rwanda) and 2.3 per cent for Kenya. No statistics were available for South Sudan.

The petition want the bloc to get committed to reduce poverty by half by sustaining annual agricultural growth by at least six per cent and to create job opportunities to at least 30 per cent of the youths in agriculture.

The 10 per cent public spending on agriculture was made by the African Union (AU) leaders during their annual summit in Maputo in 2003.

It was galvanised under the Malabo Declaration in another continental summit held in Equatorial Guinea in 2014.

The declaration made in June 2014 aims to accelerated agricultural growth and transformation that would in Africa.

It calls for committment to ending hunger in the continent by 2025, doubling productivity while focusing on inputs, irrigation and mechanization.

The declaration further anticipates committment towards enhancing resilience in livelihoods and production systems to boosting intra-African trade in agricultural commodities.

Further envisaged is a committment to halve poverty as well as  strengthen inclusive public private partnerships (PPP) on agricultural commodity value chains.

One of the goals is creation of job opportunities for at least 30 per cent of the youth in agricultural value chains.

ESAFF was established in 2002 during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa by small scale farmers operating in the region and aimed to empower them.