In June, representatives of African Union member countries met and once again pledged to significantly step up their support for the continent’s long neglected agriculture sector. More than 10 years ago, the same representatives made a similar commitment to devote at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
To this day only, only a handful have done that much as all of them actually depend on the agriculture sector for their economic development. Uganda is one of the AU member countries that have not allocated even as much as five per cent to the sector although its economy depends on agriculture.
A recent press statement from Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) indicated that the leaders want to end hunger by 2025 and to double agricultural productivity by making it easier for smallholder farmers to access high quality inputs for crop production. The farmers need access to fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and other inputs.
But in its budget this year, the Ugandan government imposed taxes or removed tax exemptions, which resulted in higher prices of inputs. The increase in prices of the items may make it harder for the ordinary smallholder farmer to access them. This could result in stagnated overall national agricultural production.
In their jointly authored book, East African Agriculture, D. N. Ngugi, P. K. Karau and W. Nguyo state, “The backbone of the economies of the East African countries is obviously agriculture. Rapid economic development can only take place if agriculture is also developed so that it can make its contribution to the total national economic development.”
Agriculture must be rapidly developed because it provides employment to the majority of our people. It is also the source of the raw materials that we will need to develop our industries. It is the source of food for the fast growing population. If farmers are rich, they will provide the market for our industrial products.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor