As Uganda prepares to conduct its National General Election in 2021, smallholder farmers have called upon all political parties intending to participate to prioritize Agriculture while drafting their manifestos.
Under their Umbrella Organization of Eastern African Small-Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF) Uganda chapter, they urge that politicians, especially Members of Parliament, play a crucial role when it comes to budget allocation.
“The Agriculture sector has been poorly funded by the government leading to the underperformance of the sector thus the need to bring on board all the sector players.
“That’s why as farmers we are appealing to all aspiring candidates to put agriculture as their number one agenda in their manifestos,” said Hakim Baliraine the Chairperson ESAFF and a Small scale farmer from Mayuge district.
To ensure that their voices are heard the Chairperson said ESAFF has launched a countrywide media campaign sensitizing the local farmers to demand candidates contesting for various political posts to prioritise the Sector in their manifestos.
Why the sector should be the main agenda in Member of Parliament manifestos?
For long, the sector has been and still grappling with harsh weather changes, diseases, vectors and pests like locust’s invasion and now COVID-19 crisis.
This has made it to grow at a slow pace of 3.8 per cent, which is below the 6 per cent target under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) commitment of creating the wealth needed for rural communities and households to prosper.
Furthermore, small-scale farmers, pastoralists and fisher folks lack access to essential resources like land, seeds, loans, education, machinery, justice and basic services as well as restricted markets and means of production to ensure decent livelihoods.
With a backdrop, attracting policymakers’ attention towards small-scale farmers’ issues while in office has been cumbersome due to mismatch of farmers’ issues and political leaders’ manifestos.
Ronald Bagaga the Program Officer, Research and Policy at the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum said small scale farmers in Uganda and the rest of Africa play a big role when it comes to food production.
“It is no secret that small-scale farmers produce over 80 per cent of the food in the world and are the custodians of seed and plant germplasm.
“Small-scale farmers make up the largest proportion of the agriculture sector, a significant economic activity for over 64 per cent of the households of which 75 per cent are women small scale farmers, contributing to over 25 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), wealth creation, employment opportunities and critical in achieving the National Development Plan (NDP) III and Vision 2040.
“This is a clear justification that the voices of small-scale farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolks in governance matters,” said Bagaga.
Uganda is among the countries that signed the International protocols on Agriculture some of them include the Malabo Declaration, Paris Agreement and the United Nations agreement on Family farming.
Among the key issues in the UN declaration is the United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, increasing public investment financing and access to agriculture insurance and credit, improve extension service delivery, protect small scale farmers’ land rights and domesticate the voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land.
Others are fisheries and forests, protect small scale farmers’ seed rights, enhance resilience to climate variability, harness the internet for agriculture, promote public accountability, boost profitable trade in agricultural products and services and increase agriculture mechanization.
But for those key issues to be achieved, Uganda needs to increase its investment in the Agriculture sector as its demanded by the Malabo Declaration.
The Malabo Declaration calls for the African Union member states to invest 10% of their National Budget to the Agriculture sector. Currently, Uganda invests about 2.35% in the sector of the National Budget.
“Integrating farmers’ manifesto in the manifestos of the candidates is a clear and symbolic recognition of the fundamental role of small-scale farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolks in this country who work hard to make a living and feed people and hearten rural communities.
“All political parties, aspirants and policymakers all over the country need to embrace farmers’ issues to provide a lasting solution and an enabling environment for small scale farmers to prosper, defend agroecology and food sovereignty as the foundation of social justice, entrenched accountability and dignity “ Bagaga added.
BY SAMUEL NABWIISO