A little over 13 years ago, heads of state for African countries, including Uganda, met in the capital of Mozambique, Maputo, and launched the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). At this meeting, the member states committed, among others, to invest 10% of their annual national budgets on agriculture, which has been commonly referred to as the Maputo Declaration/Protocol.
There are certainly very few countries that have achieved rapid economic growth without deliberate emphasis on development of agriculture. Agriculture forms the background of most African economies, as it accounts for 32% of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It therefore suffices to assert that it is key to achieving growth and development of the member states, Uganda inclusive.
In reflection of the above assertion, the Uganda Vision 2040 identifies agriculture as one of the key opportunities to harness in order to strengthen the economy. Towards the realization of this, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animals Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) presented in the Ministerial Policy Statement (MPS) for the financial year 2016/17, a budget focusing on production, productivity, and value addition to strategic agricultural commodities such as coffee, fish, diary, horticultural crops, beans, tea, rice, maize, fruit trees, among others.
Research carried out by the MAAIF indicates that over 80% of households in Uganda are in one way or the other engaged in agriculture, which contributes to 26.2% of the national GDP, and 53% of the total export earnings of Uganda.
In the financial year, 2015/2016, MAAIF was allocated and approved a total of UGX 480Bn to carry out its mandate. The next financial year however, there is a significant increase in the allocation to the ministry totalling to UGX 795Bn.
Weighing against the rest of the sectors of the economy, the MAAIF’s proposed budget for the financial year 2016/17 constitutes a staggering 2.9% of the national budget. This percentage is in contravention of the provisions of the Maputo Protocol of 2003. This could be attributed to poor planning, the low absorption levels of the allocation by the ministry generally of which the resulting unutilised funds are reverted to the consolidated funds, and wasteful expenditure as highlighted by the Auditor General in the several reports of different financial years.
It is sardonic that a sector that provides food for both the rich and the poor alike in this magnificent Pearl of Africa remains significantly underfunded. Not all is lost though. Certainly, we have on more than one occasion heard the President explain that the institutional budgets do not operate in isolation. This means that MAAIF benefits from the allocations to other sectors of the economy. For instance, The allocation to the Ministry of Works and Transport provides opportunities to better the roads which are then used to transport the agricultural produce to the market place. Similarly, the Ministry of Trade and Industry for establishment of industries such as the Soroti Fruit Industry facilitates agricultural development one way or the other. On the above assumptions, there are arguments that the overall allocation to the Agriculture sector is therefore over and above the Maputo Protocol proposal if looked at in this way.
The Ministry of Agriculture should therefore take such necessary measures to attract better funding from the government and therafter retain such funds. For instance, setting up farms in all regions in the country will not only raise funds for the government, but also provide employment. This can also be used as a measure to secure food for the country in case food insecurity other than depending on World Food Programs.
Agencies such as NAADS should invest on mechanized agriculture, extensive irrigation farming and fish farming, among others. Whereas other states around the world have invested heavily on mechanization, our government sees no such justifications to venture into them. for example, the President through the office of the Prime Minister recently distributed 18 million hoes to different household in the country. Such a measure cannot provide avenues to sustain consistent allocation of 10% of the national budget as per the recommendations of the Maputo Protocol.