EAST African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has underscored the need for the regional bloc to act swiftly to guarantee food security.
The EALA legislators have deliberated on food security issue, calling on the East African Community (EAC) partner states to execute the Malabo Declaration strategically to attain food security and transform the region's agricultural sector.
The Assembly, consequently, approved the report of the Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources on Budgetary Enhancement in the agriculture.
The report, which the Committee Chairman, Mr Mathias Kasamba, presented to the house, stated that despite its potential, agricultural sector has been growing minimally over the years and continues to attract limited funding from governments, far below the continental benchmark of 10 per cent.
The partner states are yet to put in place action plans to attain the 10 per cent budgetary allocation to the sector. Mr Kasamba,Ugandan, told the house that young people are losing interest in agricultural activities, the trend which, unless addressed urgently, threatens the sector's sustainability.
Conscious of the challenges and opportunities of agriculture and its positive contribution to economic transformation in the Africa continent, the African Union (AU) leaders adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP)-the Maputo Declaration in 2003.A decade later, the AU leaders reiterated their engagement to agriculture by adopting the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation in June 2014.
Accordingly, all partner states in consonance with Malabo Declaration are expected to allocate 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture, which is the key contributor to the nations' gross domestic product (GDP), sustaining the livelihoods of over 70 per cent of the population.
The report reveals a myriad of challenges within the partner states, saying that many states could address some of the challenges given the fact they are at an advanced stage of preparation of their 2019/2020 national budgets.
Engineer Habib Mnyaa from Tanzania advised the Assembly to collaborate with the relevant committees in the national parliaments to push for enhanced budgets.
Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza termed agricultural sector as crucial in the economies of partner states and the region. "Agriculture remains critical in all the EAC partner states with 70-72 per cent of citizens in the region relying on the sector," the legislator from Rwanda remarked. Mr Pierre Celestin Rwigema told the house of the necessity for the partner states to secure ready market for farmers' produce within the region.
Further, the legislator from Rwanda reiterated that improved infrastructure will allow for smooth movement of agricultural produce. Uganda's Mary Mugyenyi argued that the farming methods need to be modernised, challenging all stakeholders in the region to strive to attract youth interest in agriculture.
Other members who supported the report were Abdikadir Omar Aden (Kenya), Sophie Nsavyimana (Burundi), Gai Deng (South Sudan), Abdullah Makame (Tanzania), Francoise Uwumukiza (Rwanda) and Jean Claude Barimuyabo (Rwanda). Agriculture remains the major contributor to the GDP in the East African region.