Uganda’ s minister of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja (2nd left) and second Deputy Prime Minister, also Minister for East African Community Affairs Kirunda Kivenjinja (3rd left), join other participants during the Association of Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA) Council of Patron Ministers conference in Munyonyo last week.
Agribusiness Industry

Scientists told to support farmers by developing solutions for agric sector

Uganda’s Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has asked African Scientists to develop more solutions that can help farmers to overcome challenges affecting the sector such as climate change.

This was in statement read on his behalf by the second Deputy Prime Minister, also Minister for East African Community Affairs Kirunda Kivenjinja, during the Association of Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA) Council of Patron Ministers conference.

The conference was held Speke Resort Munyonyo last week.

Dr Rugunda said that scientists are key in solving some of the challenges the agriculture sector is facing across the continent.

“Scientist across the continent should embark more on developing solutions that can support farmers to overcome the challenges that are hindering the growth of the sector, some challenges can be mitigated scientifically that is why we request them to engage more in developing scientific solutions that can support our local farmers” he said in speech read on his behalf.

The Prime Minister observed that despite Africa having conducive Environment which can support the development of the Agriculture sector, the continent is depending more on imported foods from Asia and other developed Countries because of the poor performance of the Agriculture sector   due to challenges associated with climate change, out brake of pests and Diseases coupled with less Investments in the sector by some African states.

Council of Patron Ministers comprises the Ministers responsible for agricultural research in ASARECA member countries. The Council provides overall guidance to regional collaborative programmes, confers the legal authority to the institution as the signatory of the Constitution of ASARECA, and also provides political patronage to the ASARECA Board of Directors.

Professor Jean Jacques Mbonigaba Muhinda, the Executive Secretary of ASARECA, said for researchers to be more relevant towards addressing key challenges in the agriculture sector, African states need to invest more resources towards agriculture research.

“Investment in agriculture research is still very low yet research requires more resources and competent human resources which is still big challenge in most states,” Muhinda said.

He added that although scientists develop solutions towards mitigating Agricultural challenges, farmers may not benefit from the researches if Governments do not develop mechanisms through which the developed technology can be accessed by the farmers.

“Information flow in most parts of Africa is still poor. That is why farmers are not accessing to the knowledge being developed by scientists and other researchers in the agricultural sector.  States need to recruit professionals  who can disseminate the researched information to the end users (farmers ),” he said.

The ASARECA Ministerial conference was attended by participants from 11 ASARECA member states.  The participants included  ministers responsible for agriculture and natural resources, representative from the African Union , among the key Issues  discussed  in the meeting included Agricultural financing, Research  and Development in the sector  among other key vital issues affecting the sector.

In the meeting, the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agricultural Transformation Ambassador Josefa Leonel urged member states to embrace Green Economy and also Invest more resources in the Agricultural sector as it was agreed on by Heads of states during the Malabo Declaration.

She noted that although heads of states agreed to Invest about 10% of their national budget to Agriculture sector, only 10 countries have met the obligation.

“Member states need to implement the protocol if the agricultural sector is to develop; when the sector is poorly funded less will be injected in agricultural research. The sector has the potential to uplift the African population from poverty but the problems are the little resources most governments are investing in the sector,” she said.

She explained that African Union member states do not have a good track record in fighting poverty something that has led many younger people to seek more employment opportunities especially in Middle East where they are suffering.

She noted that once the agricultural sector is highly supported, it will create many jobs in the value chain process.

During the meeting, the ministers from 12 member states of ASARECA agreed to advocate for an increment in the resources their governments inject in the Agricultural sector.

Uganda’ s minister of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja tasked the ministers responsible for sector will compel their governments to ensure that more resources are injected in the sector.

“The sector plays bog role we shall ensure that   ASARECA member states respect the African Union commitment where our heads of states agreed to allocate 10% of their national budgets to Agriculture sector,” he said.

However, Onyoti Adigo Nyikwec, South Sudan Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, told East African Business Week that his country is still facing many challenges thus cannot implement the Malabo Declaration of allocating 10% to the agricultural sector.

ASARECA is a not-for-profit sub-regional organization of the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) of 11 member countries, namely: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

ASARECA brings together scientists from the national agricultural research institutions of the member countries, national agricultural extension service providers and other strategic development oriented partners to generate, share and promote knowledge and innovations to solve common challenges facing agriculture in the member countries.

BY SAMUEL NABWIISO