Raising agricultural ministry’s budget to benefit rural folks
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WOMEN in agriculture: Empowerment in terms of technology and equipment can help boost production. ( File photo)

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“POVERTY afflicts rural areas most, where people engage in agricultural activities as small holder farmers. As such , all efforts to bring development must target the sector while the government lays emphasis on the role of women, ’’ this is the general view of development stakeholders.

A set of likeminded nongovernmental organizations, namely Policy Forum, OxfamTanzania, Forum for Climate Change (Forum CC) and TGNP-Mtandao gathered in Dar es Salaam last week, to conduct a quick analysis of the 2017/18 budget of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

The general consensus was that agriculture, livestock and fisheries are important sectors of the country’s economy.

These are the source of income for over 65 percent of citizens, assuring them of food security and contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for over 28 per cent as well as export generating sales ( over 24 percent.) Despite the sectors’ significance in the national economy, they face various challenges which need to be tackled.

Policy Forum Manager for Budget and Policy Analysis, Mr Nicholas Lekule commented that the challenges included setting-aside and disbursing a small amount of development budget, shortage of extension officers, experts and researchers as well as scarcity of processing industries.

“Impact of climate change intensifies these challenges including an increase in droughts, plants and animal diseases; unpredictable rains and penetration of salty water into farms and fresh water sources. There is flood and destruction of fields and infrastructure, including fish hatcheries,” he said.

According to the budget analysis document (from the stakeholders), statistics showed that in 2015, the growth of ag riculture (crops, livestock, forestry and hunting) decreased to 2.3 percent from 3.4 percent in 2014.

It was stated that the ministry’s budget trend for the past ten years (2007/2008 - 2016/2017) was not satisfactory despite that sectors provide enormous contribution to the nation.

Statistics showed that the sectors’ budget average for the whole period (10 years) was 2.2 percent of the national budget. The rate was very small compared with the target of reaching 10 percent as agreed upon in the ratification of ‘Malabo Declaration’.

For the first five years (2007/08 - 2011/12), the average was only 2.7 percent, while in the last five years (2012/13 - 2016/17), the average was only 1.8 percent.

The budget analysts added that the government’s progress reports indicated that provision of the approved budget-funds from 2011/12 – 2015/16 was also unsatisfactory, thus, increasing major challenges in implementation, especially on development projects.

In the mentioned period (2011/12 - 2015/16), the ministry received an average of only 57 percent; saying that the amount was very small compared to the importance of this sector.

Forum CC Project Man ager, Mr Fazal Issa assessed the 2016/17 budget fund; saying the ministry’s information to the Agriculture, Water and Livestock Permanent Parliamentary Committee stated that up to the end of March 2017, the disbursed fund was small compared to the approved amount.

According to him, disbursed fund for recurrent expenditure in Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries was 153.97b/-and addition of 2.31bn/-to reach 156.28b/-. As of March 2017, the total of 79.89bn/-equal to 51 percent was disbursed.

He said the funds set aside for development projects’ implementation were 116.4b/- and addition of 1.0bn/- to be the total of 117.4b/-. As of March 2017, a total of 3.5bn/-, equal to 3 percent only was disbursed.

“The statistics show that the government sets aside and approves de facto budget, compared to its sources of income. But also the government offers small amount for development projects which touches marginalize people, especially women,” he commented.

For 2017/18 financial year, the budget analysts said that a total of 269.86bn/- has set been aside for the ministry, which is equal to 0.85 percent of the whole government budget.

The three sectors received 216bn/-(agriculture), equal to 80 percent, Livestock (29.9bn/, equivalent to 11 percent) and 23.9bn/- equivalent to nine percent, for Fisheries.

The budget involves 106.41bn/-, equal to 39 percent for the ministry’s recurrent expenditure and 163.45b/-, equal to 61 percent for implementation of development projects.

Of the 163.45b/- set aside for development projects implementation, 65.6b/- equal to 40 percent is domestic fund and 97.85b/- equal to 60 percent is from external sources; according to the budget analysts, adding that: “This ratio of donors dependence lasted for too long, hence, affecting these sectors.”

The sectors and the ministry in general indicated a downward trend in their ratio compared to the national budget. The ministry’ 0.85 percent budget (269b/-) decreased from 0.93 percent (275b/-) of 2016/17; the rate that is also below the average of the past 10 years (2007/08–2016/17), which is 2.2 percent.

The budget analysts recommend that any efforts to improve people’s living standards must have a goal of changing agriculture sector, including fighting against climate change impacts, especially for small farmers.

The government should also consider small farmers’ recommendations on challenges they face and seek way forwards, said one speaker, adding that despite the fact that agriculture sector is dominated by women; there was no satisfactory information in the budget in accordance with gender balance issues.

They recommended that deliberate efforts should be made to hire extension officers in rural areas. As of April 2016 ministry’s information showed that extension officers’ demand in Wards and villages countywide was 15,802. Up on March 2016, there were 9,558 officers, equivalent to 60.5 percent.

“Employing extension officers is an important aspect to help increase the government’s ability in education provision in all these sectors. Thus, employment of extension officers should not be halted and should also be included in all municipal and councils’ budgets,” a speaker from Oxfam Tanzania said.

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