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Africa’s low budget allocation for agriculture does not seem to recognize that most of its citizens are farmers, says a new report by Action Aid. The report looked at a number of countries and their regular practices regarding agriculture and it stated that most countries did not meet the 10 percent budget target for the agriculture sector.
The report places Ethiopia among only seven countries that have managed to reach the 10 percent budget target constantly.
African public spending on agriculture per worker declined from USD152 in 1980-89 to just USD45 in 2005-07. By contrast, every other region of the world witnessed increases in such spending over the same period.
The ‘Walk the talk’ report suggests that African countries’ governments can get the finance that is needed for their agriculture sectors through several measures such as reducing military spending as well as abolishing massive tax exemptions given to companies.
According to recent research done by Action Aid, four East African countries Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda lose up to USD 2.8 billion every year from tax incentives and exemptions their governments provide. Clamping down on the illicit financial flows, mainly through tax evasion, which cost Africa an average of USD 60 billion a year during 2005 to 2010, is also another suggestion the report provides.
The report reads that once an appropriate budget has been allocated, spending it needs to be matched by improvements in the quality of spending and the efficiency of ministries in the agriculture sector needs to improve. It says that ministries often lack adequate capacity to implement policies, such as staff with appropriate skills or mechanisms to ensure coordination within and across departments.
Corruption is also stated as a huge problem facing the African agriculture sector. The report states that transparency in the government budget is vital to ensure the best use of resources, prevent corruption and help citizens to hold the government accountable. Lack of transparency means that farmers will not know what resources or services they are entitled to.
Another hindrance for the sector is the insufficient involvement of smallholder farmers in the design and implementation of agriculture budgets and policies. The report states that farmers’ organizations are often ignored or by passed in the crucial process of designing policies for the sector. On a positive note, the report does acknowledge that African governments have improved mechanisms to consult with farmers in recent years.
Investing in agricultural research is also underlined as a necessity for the sector as it can be vital to imparting knowledge and technology to farmers. Furthermore, research can play a huge role in developing improved seed varieties, increasing yields or developing small scale farming equipment.
According to the report, for every one percent increase in yield from the investment of agricultural research in the continent, two million people can be lifted out of poverty.