In a bid to improve funding to the agricultural sector in Africa, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) has urged member states to settle their arrears with the organization.
Established in 1994, ASARECA is a not-for-profit sub-regional organization that brings together National Agriculture Research Systems (NARS) of 15 member countries.
These include Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Congo Brazzaville, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Yesterday, Somalia was ushered in as the 15th entrant.
According to the executive director of ASARECA, Dr Enock Warinda, as of today Thursday, the current annual membership contribution arrears are more than $ 1.8 million (about Shs 6.7bn) for 12 countries. Only three countries; Tanzania, Eritrea, and Uganda have fully paid their fees.
“This is very good money, if paid, we can do amazing projects in our countries. We are over dependent on just one donor or two but we have our countries that can help us. You, people, should just get angry and do something for us to move forward,” Warinda said.
He added: “We have already done immense work among our members but if the countries are not able to support the secretariat, we can’t do much. ASARECA is a good platform that can make an impact in the world as long as funding is made available. Without support from the member countries, the good work of ASARECA may be aborted. We have tried as a secretariat to mobilize resources elsewhere but it is not good enough.”
Warinda raised the concerns today on the second day of the first ASARECA Agriculture Ministerial Conference (AAMC) organized under the theme: Building Resilient Food Systems to Feed Africa for Generations held at Speke Resort, Munyoyo. The conference, which started on Wednesday will close tomorrow Friday.
He noted that donor-funded projects are mainly restricted to countries of their choice – something that completely locked out several member countries. Yet, ASARECA can't rely on member contributions to mimic what donors are implementing in other countries.
With better remittances from countries, Warinda emphasized that ASARECA can generate more innovative projects among its members to support the development, innovation, and uptake of regional technologies which cover crops and livestock, soil fertility, water management, agronomic, policy formulation, advocacy, among others.
This year’s theme was informed by the current challenges that the food systems in Africa are facing including the effects of climate change, the Russia-Ukraine war, emerging pandemics including COVID-19, and transboundary pests and diseases among others. These challenges continue to create disruptions in the agricultural food systems thus undermining food sovereignty.
The minister of Agriculture and Food Security in South Sudan, Josephine Lagu Yanga, whose country is among those in arrears, said: “We have a lot of work to do but we shall ensure that the arrears are paid in the shortest time possible given the importance of our regional organization.”
Commenting on the food insecurity in Africa, Lagu said: “It is rather shameful, that despite the potential that we have on the continent, at least one-quarter of the 1.2 billion people [in Africa] are still going hungry and our children still suffering from malnutrition. Africa should not only feed itself but also contribute towards feeding the world.”
While presiding over the conference, the state minister for Agriculture, Fred Bwino Kyakulaga, reiterated the need for member countries to fund their mother body.
“The AAMC will, effective this year, be convening every two years. However, the only way we can support or define our new destiny is by supporting our funding mechanisms. We must ensure that we are timely in clearing our agreed contributions towards the good health of our coordinating and convening entity – ASARECA,” Kyakulaga said, adding that new membership fees will be endorsed during the conference.
He said ASARECA has played as a regional body in supporting the generation, transfer, and dissemination of agricultural technologies as well as facilitating market access within and across borders of member countries.
Kyakulaga told participants that Uganda’s agriculture sector is still composed of mainly smallholder farmers with farm holdings of two hectares or less, accounting for 96 per cent of all farms in Uganda. He believes that such farmers can be more productive as long as they are supported by the government.
“Fortunately, smaller-holder farmers in Uganda are generally more productive and are projected to become even more efficient and commercially viable if well supported,” he said.
The key areas that have been identified by the Agriculture ministry to support smallholder farmers are; increasing food crop production, improving meat and dairy value chain development, and facilitating easy transportation, distribution, and marketing of agricultural produce.
There are also plans to increase the area of arable land under agricultural production from the current 8.3 to 12.1 million hectares in the next 5 years and to increase water storage for irrigated agriculture from 52.48 million cubic meters in 2021/22 to 76.82 million cubic meters by 2025.
This, according to Kyakulaga, will increase cropping seasons to about three per year; double household incomes; strengthen climate resilience and food security, as well as create more than 30,000 new jobs.