East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) adopts common strategy for food security in the region

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The Third Meeting, Third Session of the Second East African Legislative Assembly sitting at the Chambers of the Parliament of Uganda in Kampala has today adopted a common strategy for food security in the region.

In a lively plenary session chaired by the Speaker of EALA, Hon. Abdirahin Haithar Abdi, Members adopted the Report on common strategy for food security in the EAC as presented by the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, Hon. Dr. George Francis Nangale (Tanzania).

Hon. Dr. Nangale had earlier informed the House that Article 49 of The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC) mandates the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to legislate for the EAC so as to ensure the full realisation of the Community’s objectives. In executing its functions, EALA works through standing Committees, one of which is the Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources.

Given the importance of food security in East Africa, especially in the light of climate change, the committee initiated, in early 2009, a process of evaluating the best way that the EAC can ensure food security for its entire population. The Committee recognised that the region as a whole had substantial unutilized potential for agriculture and that even the resources that are put into use are underutilised because of low productivity of labour, land and water.

Hon. Dr. Nangale said despite the frequent pockets of food shortages and hunger in the EAC region and the below optimum production, the region on average produces adequate food for its population. Moreover, most of the food statistics used to assess food supply and adequacy underestimates the extent of supply because often they do not fully take into account food commodities/products from livestock, fisheries, other marine and aquatic products, horticultural produce, and forestry food products.

For this reason, the EALA Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources was of the opinion that the East Africa Common Market provides an excellent opportunity to “make food insecurity history” in the EAC region through a Common Strategy for Food Security, that encompasses increased productivity, better handling and processing, and marketing of food products across the region. This required a common regional strategy.

Before adopting the report, Hon. Safina Tsungu Kwekwe (Kenya) urged Partner States not to focus only on investing heavily on highway infrastructures, but also on rural feeder roads that bear direct impact on the common man of East Africa. She also urged for scaling up technical assistance programmes to the farmers in the region.

Hon. Catherine Kimura (Kenya) urged the EAC Council of Ministers to give agriculture top priority in the integration process. Hon. Dr.Ghalib Bilal (Tanzania) called for diversification of staple foods among the people of East Africa. Hon. Dr. James Ndahiro (Rwanda) called for putting in place the necessary institutional framework to oversee the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations. Hon. Leonce Ndarubagiye (Burundi) said the essentials of agriculture i.e. land; labour, water, fertilizers, attitude and political will were all available within the region.

Hon. Dan Ogalo (Uganda) said the question of food security was at the heart of EALA but expressed fears that not enough was being done to implement the part of the Treaty that touches on agriculture and food security. He pushed for the establishment of regional institutions to manage the affairs of the Community.

The adopted Report has 17 recommendations divided in three different priority areas as follows:

First Priority is Enhancing Free Movement of Food in Region.

1. In the implementation of the East African Common Market Protocol, trade in food commodities and products to be given priority, not just to ensure food security, but also to ensure that majority of the EAC citizens whose main pre-occupation is in the production of food commodities become the leading beneficiaries of the Common Market;

2. Non-tariff barriers which hinder the transfer of food from surplus food production zones to areas with deficits be eliminated;

3. There should not be export bans on food commodities and products intended for consumption within the EAC region;

4. The on-going improvement of transportation infrastructure, should give adequate attention to a balanced development of major infrastructure (such as highways and railways) on one hand, and the development of rural feeder roads, on the other, to ensure that major infrastructure is optimally utilised;

5. Other food market-supporting infrastructure (such as wholesale markets, consolidation centres, warehouses, primary processing facilities) should be established and strengthened to reduce post-harvest wastage of food and to reduce marketing costs;

6. Food commodities and products in the EAC market should meet common regional safety standards for the protection of consumers, therefore standards for Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS), certification, branding and labelling of food products, and their enforcement should be harmonised and regionalized;

7. Investment in agro-industries to process food commodities should be expanded so as to (i) increase the tradability of all food commodities especially the perishable food stuffs, (ii) improve shelf life through preservation to allow for storage from one season to another, (iii) increase the extent to which food products sold in local and national markets are in the processed form and meet food safety standards desired by consumers, and (iv) ensure that food exports from the region are as far as possible processed products

8. The private sector be facilitated to undertake commercial production, processing and marketing of food commodities;

Second priority area is Increasing Production by Enhancing Productivity

9. The Common Strategy and Action Plan for Food Security should take into account the relationship among land use and ownership, access to capital and increased agricultural production and that necessary agrarian reform should be undertaken;

10. Governments of EAC Partner States should implement the 10 per cent budget allocation for agriculture according to the Maputo Declaration (to which they are signatories), but focus this allocation on strategic investments;

11. The EAC should develop regional technical assistance programs, pooling regional resources and expertise to ensure the supply of agricultural technologies, sharing and utilization of such technologies, and supply of inputs and services required for food production, are achieved in a more efficient manner that reduces duplication of efforts;

12. The fertilizer program that has been initiated by the EAC with the support of African Development Bank towards regionally coordinated procurement and/or manufacture of fertiliser, should be accelerated to ensure adequate and cost effectiveness supply of fertilisers in the EAC region;

13. Develop a Regional Irrigation Master Plan to increase the productivity of water used in agriculture including amongst others, water mass bodies sources, rainwater through integrated agricultural water solutions that integrates proper tillage to efficiently capture and retain rainwater in the soil, rainwater harvesting to capture water for supplementary irrigation, and efficiently designed and optimally operated conventional irrigation systems;

14. Emergency food aid should always be linked to long term development of food supply systems by emphasising that such food should be procured from within EAC, and the process of supply should include investment in the affected area;

15. The East African Community should enact legislation to provide legal framework for regionally coordinated weather?indexed insurance for Agriculture and Rural livelihoods;

16. EAC Partner States should resist the leasing or selling of large chunks of land to foreign entities for production of food or bio-fuel feedstock solely for export, which will be disadvantageous to food security in the region, but the EAC in general and each member state in particular should realize that the ample potential in land and water resources can be used to make the region an important exporter of food products to exploit the high and raising global demand and prices for food, and should therefore make a common strategy for this purpose;

Third priority area is to Improve and Accelerate the Implementation of Policies, Strategies and Programs

17. The East African Community should enact Regional Framework which provides a legal framework to ensure coordinated regional approach to issues of Food Security and Climate Change. Many policy declarations and agreements have remained unimplemented due to lack of political will and legal binding instruments.

The adopted report will now form part of the background paper to the forthcoming EAC Heads of State Special Summit on Food Security and Climate change due in March 2010 in Arusha, Tanzania.

Source: East African Community (EAC)

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