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Availing Funds to Farmers a Challenge for Agriculture Budget

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more about http://charadas.org/wp-includes/ms-deprecated.php geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>The public debt must be reduced; Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn’t want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance”

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The foregoing brings out two important lessons: a) that a National budget should focus on growing internal capability to generate local revenues to finance its own budget and thus reduce dependence on aid. b) That citizens should not expect government to provide everything but rather people should work to develop themselves and their country- a budget should not make people dependant on the state. A state is only a regulator and enabler.

On April 15th, 2014, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) released a Press Statement on their perceptions in regard to the National Budget Framework paper 2014/2015 that was submitted to Parliament by the Minister of Finance Planning and Economic Development on 27th March 2014, as per section 4(1) of the budget Act 2001. Reading the press statement, one realises that CSBAG gave justice to expenditure side of the budget and leap service to the revenue side of the budget. Was this deliberate?

A budget is a statement of revenue and expenditure. My expectation was that CSBAG would delve deeper to provide strategic recommendations for government to increase revenue.

But importantly, I was concerned about the old demand by agriculture advocacy groups restated by CSBAG that Government should invest 10 percent of national budget to agriculture- to fulfil its commitment under the Maputo declaration.

Although this is a genuine demand, it contains some flaws that I wish to illuminate. I spent so many years at the Uganda National Farmers Federation amplifying this demand. Now after long reflections, I am convinced that agriculture advocates should change tact.

According to the 2014/2015 budget framework paper, the agriculture share of the National budget is to increase from 2.9 percent (Shs 382.7bn) in Financial Year 2013/2014 to 3.1 percent (Shs 440.7bn) in Financial Year 2014/2015 which translates into a paltry 0.2 percent increment. Considering the importance of the sector to national security, food and nutrition security, creation of jobs, e.tc, agriculture should get even bigger share of the pie. Of course a 3.1 percent of for example 12 trillion is bigger than a 3.1 percent of 3 trillion.

Therefore, it is important to note that progressive expansion of Uganda’s budget has had positive impact on net resources that are deployed in agriculture sector even when percentage allocation has been oscillating below 4 percent for the last 10 years. Whereas allocation of 10 percent or even more to agriculture sector is ideal, I still strongly think that we are focussing on a wrong ‘ask’.

Efficiency

The problem is really not allocative efficiency but rather execution /implementation efficiency. What we should be asking ourselves is whether the meagre 2.9 or 3.1 percent actually reaches the farmers? For example, on 31st August 2011, Uganda Radio Network reported that three officials of Lefori Sub County in Moyo district were arrested by the police for allegedly misusing 5.4 million shillings under the National Agricultural Advisory Services, NAADS. This is just one example of many cases that have been reported and investigated over the years.


An inter-sectoral analysis of the agriculture budget done by Daniel Lukwago et al, shows that 60 percent of the sector budget is allocated to central government agencies and the headquarters, and most of this money is consumed by recurrent expenditures.

Despite the fact that Local governments implement majority of the sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP) activities, only 40 percent of the sector budget is allocated to Local Government’s programmes under advisory services and production services. Apart from NAADS, there is virtually no other government funding for agriculture at Local Government levels.

In fact Districts continue to face serious problems in raising local revenues to support the agriculture and other sectors. For example, Amuru collects only 0.7 percent of its total budget, Luwero at 1.2 percent of its entire budget and Nebbi at 3.3 percent.

Can these districts marshal capacity to deliver local specific services especially those in the agriculture sector? Perhaps, a more clever demand would be to advocate that much of the sector budget be spent at service delivery points- the sub county level.

The strategy for Farmers and farmer advocates should be to tease out myriad ways of following farmers’ money and making sure that the little budgeted and released actually reaches the farmers. Otherwise, even the 10 or so percent may not make a difference if leakages in budget execution are not plugged.

For example, farmer groups, community leaders and barazas, should develop mechanisms to follow this money. At the National level, Uganda National Farmers Federation should coordinate budget implementation monitoring efforts.

Farmers must organize and harness the power of radios and other forms of media to engage and turn budget in their favour.

Budget numbers alone will not wholly eliminate supply side and demand side constraints facing the agriculture sector.

But rather integrity in delivery of agriculture services will be the anchor to unlock the sector code. This is a role we can all undertake in our communities, churches and other spaces.

I agree with the point of view that community leaders and church leaders at the grass roots should get back to work and re-engage the work of monitoring service delivery and mobilizing people to work.

By laws that stop people from alcohol consumption at 11 am at those village trading centres should be enforced.

A mix of enforcement and the market should work as pull factors to transform the rural. Lipton, 2005, argues that there are virtually no examples of mass poverty reduction since 1700 that did not start with sharp rises in employment and self-employment income due to higher productivity in small scale family farms. This remains true for Uganda.

The author is the Chief Executive Officer, Agency for Transformation

mrwakakamba@gmail.com

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