By Lahja Nashuuta
Windhoek - The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate has urged SADC governments to increase funding on agriculture as per the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.
The Heads of State and Government in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region committed to allocating at least 10% of national budgetary resources to agricultural sectors in the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.
Through the declarations, governments pledged to spend at least 10% of their budgets on the agricultural sector to halve poverty by 2025, to create job opportunities for at least 30% of the youth in agricultural value chains as well as to increase the participation of women and youth in gainful and attractive agribusiness.
However, the Director of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR) at the SADC Secretariat, Domingos Gove, confirmed that most countries in the region are yet to achieve the Maputo target of allocating at least 10% of national budgetary resources to the agricultural sector.
Namibia, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mauritius and Zambia are among the countries that need to increase their investments significantly.
The Namibian government has, for decades now, been spending between 4 and 5% of its national budget on agriculture. During the 2018/2019 financial year, the government has allocated R2.1 billion to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, representing 6% of the R65-billion budget.
The South African Department of Agriculture has reportedly received R581 million out of the country’s R1.67 trillion national budget allocation while the Zimbabwe Lands and Agriculture Ministry received US$497 million of the national budget.
Botswana’s Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security received P2.0 billion from the 2018/19 P63.3 billion (US$6.6 billion) national budget while eSwatini allocated US$116.7 million to the ministry of agriculture out of the US$1.7 billion budget total budget.
Addressing the media at the 38th SADC Summit held in Windhoek, Namibia, last month Gove urged countries in the region to intensify efforts to increase and redirect resources to agriculture, as reflected in their commitment to the Maputo Declaration to increase agricultural spending to 10% of national budgets to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2; that seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security.
“Of course, public resources are limited and have competing demands; hence, prioritisation will be critical. Public spending programmes in the agricultural sector will have the greatest impact on the poor and how the resources should be allocated among the different sub-sectors,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025 shows agriculture productivity in SADC continuing to be lower than in other sectors while agricultural infrastructure falls far short of the levels necessary to support a thriving agricultural economy.
The FAO report shows that the agricultural sector contributes 10% to the SADC Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with Botswana and South Africa ranges below 3%. Namibia’s agricultural sector accounted for a mere 3.4% of GDP in 2017 and 70% of the country’s population still lives in poverty while South Africa contributes 2.5 %, while agriculture directly and indirectly contribute 14%to the country’s GDP while in Botswana agriculture contributed approximately 2.4% to country’s GDP.
Besides the poor sector performance, food insecurity has been a long-standing challenge, with uneven progress across the region. Data from the FAO shows there is not enough food for consumption in the region while food price remains high.
The 2018 vulnerability assessments and analysis results indicate a 13% increase in food insecure population across the region from 26.8 million during 2017/18 marketing year to 29.4 million in 2018/19. The report indicates that food insecure populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe make up close to 90% of the food insecure in the 11 member states where vulnerability assessments were conducted. The largest increase in affected people compared to the previous year is in Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe; while decreases in food insecure populations have been recorded in Namibia and eSwatini.
Current assessments indicate a regional cereal availability of 25.51 million tonnes, which is insufficient to meet a revised regional requirement of 26.85 million tonnes. This shows a deficit of 1.33 million tonnes compared to 2.23 million tonnes predicted in May but lower than the 1.34 million tonnes surplus last year.
Food price is also expected to increase above what most poor households can afford during the 2018/19 financial year. Gove said, although the market food supplies are stable across the region and carryover stocks from the bumper harvest last season was also helping to stabilise supplies, crop prices may increase with reduced food production.