Uganda sloth­ing its way to the Ma­puto Pro­to­col on agri­cul­ture

By: Isaac Okello

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.