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East Africa should be Able to Feed Itself

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Follow Me on Twitter     Message Emmanuel D Tayari

In trying to understand change it is always necessary to understand what has remained the same. Looking at how the East African Community is creating exciting opportunities at the moment, it is still sad to know that still there has not been changes in food shortages among the member's states. This serious crisis elaborates that despite such increase in opportunities arising from the unity there is still the need for further prioritizing key issues and further enhancements in order to have proper desirable changes.

Like all great ideas in history, the idea of the East African Community (EAC) has in the course of time been supported on different grounds and for different reasons, which as a result there are many policy issues within the community which are still only sheer hope than a reality.

The Agricultural sector is still a dominant industry in the region and a according to the community website "The sector accounts for about 44% of the GDP in Burundi and Tanzania, 30% in Uganda, 24% in Kenya and 38% in Rwanda (2006 figures), although its contribution to these economies continues to decline".

It will be unfair to say that the community has not made any considerable progress on its development but I think it will be fair to say that the community has not done enough in the Agricultural sector and it needs to do more. It is has not yet been sufficiently recognized that Agriculture and Food Security is a key area of cooperation as outlined in Chapter 18 (Articles 105-110) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community; thus implementing bold action which will ensure hunger is not a problem among member states is an important issue to cater for change.

The community has by no means done all it set out to do and we see that the East African Community Agriculture and Rural Development Policy (EAC ARDP) has made little or no progress at all. I think reforms of the Agricultural Industry are something easy to do politically and they are the kind of issues that the East African Community parliament should give priority in.

I applaud the recent move by East African Member States which started to address the problem associated with the agricultural Industry by adopting a common strategy aimed at boosting the Agricultural sector in the community. The initiative which was long overdue has seen an introduction of a Common Strategy and Action Plan for Food Security which, is aimed at providing the commitment of assessing the existing initiatives in the East African community as well as to further develop the planned initiatives: the recommendations passed put priority on three areas: Enhancing free movement of food in the region; Increasing production by enhancing productivity; and Improvement and acceleration of the implementation of policies, strategies and programmes concerning food production.

I am sure if the recommendations are implemented and adopted fully, it will be a good thing for Tanzania Kilimo Kwanza policy and other member's states agriculture policies because farmers will be able to demand better prices for their produce any where is the community. Furthermore the East African CommonMarket Protocol will give trade in food commodities and products priority, by removing all Non-tariff barriers which would normally hinder the transfer of food from surplus food production zones to areas with deficits and such shortages will be eliminated. The proposal will further on eliminate the export bans on food commodities and products intended for consumption within the EAC.

It is the time for EAC countries to collectively turn food shortages and hunger into a business opportunity and the ideas of pooling regional resources and expertise together is the best way forward.

The Regional Irrigation Master Plan should be accompanied with a concrete way of financing it, we are tired with master plans which stay in cabinets for twenty years or more, it is better to rather have a small master plan but with goals which are achievable which will increase the productivity of water used in agriculture.

Lastly, it is a very big shame for EAC to fail in feeding themselves. It is always shameful to see a powerful country like Kenya calling for food relief. Therefore I believe the plan of ensuringEmergency food aid linked to long term development of food supply systems by emphasizing that such food should be procured from within EAC is a good idea and I believe the process of supply should and will attract private sector and the government to invest in the industry.

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The writer is a Tanzanian Young man who has passion for reforms in Tanzania. You can read his columns at Business Times Tanzania every friday
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