Oxfam International has expressed concern on the reduced agriculture budgets for most African countries.
Oxfam International Plan Africa Director, Peter Kamalingin told ZANIS in an interview in Lusaka on the sidelines of the 4th mid-year coordination meeting between the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the Regional Mechanisms (RMs) that a total amount budget by 39 African countries dropped by 18 percent between 2019 and 2021.
Mr. Kamalingin said 26 others were spending under five percent of their annual budget on agriculture, adding that this is done amid a worsening food crisis that has already pushed millions of people in the continent to be threatened with starvation.
He explained that in 2021 322 million people in Africa were facing severe food insecurity, adding that the West and East Africa are facing the worst food crisis in a decade due to drought and uneven rainfall pattern and conflicts.
He noted that countries in Southern Africa have recorded a decline in cereal production and an increase in malnutrition cases, with Angola, Malawi and Namibia recording a rise in malnutrition admissions.
“The African continent has about a quarter of the World’s agricultural land, yet it is marred in an alarming hunger crisis, as the continent is spending more than 60 billion dollars annually importing food that they could produce locally,” said Mr. Kamalingin.
Mr. Kamalingin noted that the majority of the African Union member states have not honoured their commitment to invest at least 10% of their budgets on agriculture, as per the Malabo declaration of 2014.
He noted that the region needs about 22 billion dollars to meet the targets that were made during the declaration.
He further added that outbreak of the covid-19 has affected Africa’s economy and impacted the capacity of governments to put money in to key sectors such as health, education, agriculture and social protection, noting that of underinvestment in agriculture has made the sector very fragile against economic shocks such climate change, covid-219 and tensions on the World Market.
Oxfam International Plan Africa Director also noted that the continent is crippled by debt which takes an average of 51 % of its budget revenue, with debt repayment accounting for the largest single expenditure in their budgets.
And Tax Justice Network Africa Executive, Director Alvin Mosioma called on African nations to accelerate their efforts toward regional integration by addressing barriers that affect regional trade for food and agriculture produce to move freely across the nations.
Mr. Mosioma observed that despite being important in the food distribution supply chain, they have continued to be on the receiving end of unfair treatment in trade facilitation processes.
“Many African women cross border traders undergo a lot of harassment at the borders as they play the important role of food distribution, we must deliberately seek to listen to their voices which have been silent because of the high-level discussion around regional integration and trade,” he stated.