Dar es Salaam — In 2003 officials from Tanzania and several other African countries descended upon Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, with a determination to transform African agriculture. After a couple of days of reminiscing on how important farming was for Africa future in terms of food self-sufficiency the officials agreed to allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture to start with, what came to be known as Maputo Declaration.
The Declaration was a bold statement that revealed the political will African leaders had to transform agriculture in the continent. It reads in part: "We, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), assembled in Maputo at the Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly, 10 to 12 July, 2003; concerned that 30 percent of the population of Africa is chronically and severely undernourished; that the Continent has become a net importer of food; and that it is currently the largest recipient of food aid in the world; resolve to IMPLEMENT, as a matter of urgency, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and flagship projects and evolving Action Plans for agricultural development, at the national, regional and continental levels. To this end, we agree to adopt sound policies for agricultural and rural development, and commit ourselves to allocating at least 10 per cent of national budgetary resources for their implementation within five years."
Political will, however, is one thing and action is another. About 18 years after the Maputo Declaration Tanzania has yet to allocate 10 per cent of its budget to agriculture. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) earlier this year released an analysis report that showed that Tanzania and 13 other major agriculture producers have allocated only about 6 per cent per country of public financial resources.
The failure to allocated 10 per cent is because of many priorities and limited financial resources. But it also shows that as it comes to agriculture it is easier to talk about it than to take concrete actions to improve it.
And this happens despite constant pressure from various groups and repeated reminders from activists to Tanzania and other governments that urge them to honour their pledges.
On March 1, 2012 activists and farmers' representatives from across Africa marched for one kilometre from the from the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) to the State House in Dar es Salaam to hand former President JakayaKikwete's petition signed by over 16,000 of them urging the continent's leaders to increase budgetary allocations to the sector as per the Maputo Declaration.
President Kikwete said he agreed that Tanzania was yet to meet 10 per cent Maputo target, "but in real monetary terms, we have made impressive achievements." He added "I believe, we will get there (10 per cent annual agriculture budget) very soon." Eight years later we have yet got there.
The FAO report says that "fiscal constraints determined by limited revenue growth, substantial debt burdens and competition among sectors for scarce resources have made it difficult for governments to meet the target, factors all likely to be worsened by the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic."
According to the FAO report a breakdown of expenditures showed input subsidies received the largest share of public spending. Spending on infrastructure, irrigation, forestry, land management and environmental protection have increased.
"High priority should be given to funding programmes and projects with the highest return on investment in terms of agricultural growth, food security, and poverty reduction... While we cannot claim to find a causal impact, our analysis of the technical efficiency of expenditures indicates that, overall, countries that allocate a larger share of funding to input subsidies have lower scores on agricultural performance," the FAO report reads in part.
Once upon a time Tanzania's public expenditure on agriculture reached and even exceeded 10 per cent. This was the decade or so after independence when the government was in a sense of urgency to transform agriculture in the country. This was also the time when the political will to develop agriculture was at an all-time high. Statistics can be traced as further back as 1963 because records of the Appropriation Bills by the Tanzania Parliament have been kept from that year. In 1963/64 the government allocated 13.0 per cent of its budget to agriculture (Pounds 4.59 million). Tanzania started quoting its budget in shillings in 1966. This allocation was reduced to 8.8 per cent and 8.4 per cent in 1964/65 and 1965/66 respectively. These two years had been difficult for Tanzania and could have had more competing budgetary priorities. The army mutiny had happened in early 1964 while severe drought had hit the country in 1965. But it climbed to 11.5 per cent of the total budget the following year in 1966/67.
The budget read in 1967 had record allocation to agriculture in terms of percentage. This was the year when the Arusha Declaration had been adopted. The Declaration had a clear focus on rural development and agriculture was part of this. Therefore in the financial year 1967/68 the government allocated 17.5 per cent of its total budget (Sh245.5 million). In the three years that followed the allocation declined but remained in double digits; 1968/69 (12.0 per cent); 1969/70 (13.5 per cent); 1970/71 (15.0 per cent). The allocation then went to single digits but above 6 per cent from 1972/73 to 1974/75. It rebounded to 10.8 per cent in 1975/76 and then started regressing to as low as 4 per cent in three consecutive years; 1980/81, 1981/82 and 1982/83. In 1983 the allocation increased slightly to 5.6 per cent.
This was also the year when Tanzania planned to spend Sh1.0 billion in agriculture. Since 1976 Tanzania's agriculture public expenditure has remained single digit ranging between 4 and 6 per cent. When Tanzania signed to the dotted lines of the Maputo Declaration (during the 2003/04) the allocation to agriculture was 5.7 per cent, according to a budget analysis by the Policy Forum and the Agricultural Non-State Actors Forum (Ansaf).
Surprising this allocation went down to 4.6 per cent in 2004/05. It started increasing at very minimal paces since then to 5.6 per cent (2005/06); 5.7 per cent (2006/07); 6.3 per cent (2007/08); 6.4 per cent (2008/09); 7.0 per cent (2009/10); 7.8 per cent (2010/11). The allocation to agriculture then went down to 6.8 per cent of total budget in the financial year 2011/12 and has averaged 6 per cent since then according to the FAO analysis.
Experts say the statistics in allocation are not 100 per cent correct and might not show the real picture because the allocation on the ministry of Agriculture usually go to fund other sectors not directly related to crops production depending on the structure of the ministry. The availability of the breakdown of the allocation is also not always easy because funds for agriculture are also allocated through the President Office Regional Administration and Local Governments (PO-RALG).
To revolutionize agriculture and reach the budgetary allocation of 10 per cent, Tanzania will have to discard the Maputo Declaration and set its own more ambitious goals of say 16 per cent. As the saying goes 'if you aim for the moon and miss you may land to the star.'