Put funds into agriculture, SADC women farmers’ NGOs demand

15Aug 2019
Felister Peter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Put funds into agriculture, SADC women farmers’ NGOs demand

SMALL holder farmers in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have appealed for governments to prioritize investment in agriculture for food security and ensure land ownership rights.

Women in agriculture. Courtesy

Farmers are concerned that most e governments in the SADC region are yet to implement the 2014 Malabo Declaration which requires them to allocate around 10 percent of their total budget to agriculture.

"We want agriculture to be prioritized and not considered as an alternative activity. Governments should also invest in research to come up with quality seeds that are suitable for specific types of soil," said Jovitha Mlay, Campaigns Manager for Oxfam Tanzania.

Mlay made the remarks in Dar es Salaam yesterday when speaking at a public debate on Food Justice and Land Rights organized by Oxfam Tanzania, the Agricultural Non-State Actors Forum (ANSAF) and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) under the Southern Africa People's Solidarity Network (SAPSN).

Participants were to come up with agricultural sector resolutions that would be included in Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) recommendations to the 9th SADC Heads of State and Government summit scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in the city.

The theme for the events under SAPSN was “Rebuilding People’s Movements within Southern Africa’s Climate, Political and Socioeconomic Emergencies: Towards Radical Democratic Alternatives and a Just Transition.”

Mlay asserted that most governments in SADC set a small amount of budget funds for research with agricultural budgets cut every year.

SADC agro=sector organizations work to enable small holder farmers have a common voice and stand when demanding action on various issues including land ownership. “The right to own land especially for smallholder farmers who are mostly women is crucial for the country’s economic growth and food security,” she declared.

She said that most food consumed in the country is produced by small holder farmers, and among them around 60 percent are women.

Honest Mseri, the ANSAF Programme Officer emphasized that investing in agriculture will boost economic growth as well as poverty reduction. He said the government must inject more money in the sector to enable it grow at the required six percent per annum compared to the current growth of three percent annually.

Mseri affirmed that despite the various efforts by the government in improving the sector, like establishing a national strategy to reduce post harvest losses, more has to be done to ensure availability of quality seeds, fertilizers and extension officers.

For the government to post a single extension officer at every village, it needs an additional 20,000 extension officers, as of now 25 percent small holder farmers use quality seeds, and only 10 percent of total cultivated land has fertilizer applied to it.

“Investments in agriculture should be increased to reduce poverty. The government has been allocating less than five percent of the total budget for agriculture. It is only in the 2011/2012 fiscal year when it allocated 8.1 percent of the budget to the crucial sector,” the activist underlined.

He highlighted on the need to control post harvest losses to ensure food security, noting that food production stands at 16 million metric tonnes while formal sector storage capacity is 2.7 million metric tonnes.

The national strategy to reduce post harvest losses  was launched by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan on August 1 at the Nyakabindi grounds in Bariadi, Simiyu region when inaugurating the 2019 agricultural trade fair (NaneNane).

Jeche Benenia, a small holder farmer from a rural women’s organization—Women and Land – based inn Harare said that the right of land for women is vital as they cannot fully engage in agriculture if they do not own the land.

“Governments should support women to acquire land in their own names to be able to produce. Consultations should be done before setting crop prices to enable farmers to benefit from their sweat,” the activist noted.

Anna Oloishuro from Tanzania urged the government to facilitate women practice modern agriculture, with the use of organic seeds. She said organic seeds are not poised to affect the quality of soil compared to imported ones.

A paddy farmer, Edna Kiogwe said that emphasis should be placed on the production of organic seeds which are now scarce. Investing on irrigation   will help farmers produce enough for food and a tradable surplus since they can cultivate four times annually, she specified.

Eva Daudi noted that there should be a specific forum for small holder farmers in SADC to help women farmers push agendas and discuss the many challenges they face including unreliable markets, storage facilities and value addition.