Uganda has called for land reforms to guarantee farmers’ land ownership as the basic asset to facilitate food production in Africa.
Uganda’s appeal, which was made at a recent Africa-America panel dialogue on Africa’s food safety in Washington, comes at a time when the US has committed $11b (about sh40.2 trillion) for global food security.
US President Joe Biden made the pledge to members of the Gulf Cooperation Council on his recent trip to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Biden said the fund was meant to mainly assist with food security in the North African region and the Middle East.
The global food security advisor to Biden, Farrah Barrios, told the Washington dialogue hosted on the sidelines of the US-Africa Summit, that the bigger portion of the financial support would go to Africa.
The dialogue, attended by the head of bureau for food safety and resilience at USAID, Dinah Esiposito, among others, was sponsored by American farming equipment manufacturers such as John Deere.
The summit attracted attendance of over 50 key institutions supporting provision of equipment to African farmers.
The chairperson of the presidential advisory committee on exports and industrial development, Odrek Rwabwogo, who represented Uganda on the panel, campaigned for land reforms support, saying farmers owning land will facilitate increased food production.
Most farmers in Africa are more disadvantaged when it comes to land ownership, since the majority are tenants with limited rights and are exploited by landlords in exorbitant land fees.
According to the global hunger index 2022, apart from Yemen, Afghanistan, Haiti, Timor-Leste, most starving people in the world were in Africa with countries such as Central African Republic, Madagascar, DR Congo, Chad, Liberia, Niger, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, at the peak of the graph.
In Uganda, Karamoja sub-region has been worst hit by food insecurity attributed to insecurity and effects of climate change.
The Government, through the Office of the Prime Minister with support from development partners, is still leading efforts to feed and secure hundreds of Karamoja families from hunger.
It is on this note that Rwabwogo asked Africa and those who want to support its agriculture needs, to start with basic land reforms to ensure ownership of the land as the first basic asset for farmers.
“Large chunks of arable land remain unusable because of different tenure systems, a legacy of the colonial past in Africa. Once we are able to create ownership, then we can attach training and maintenance of equipment and their care,” Rwabwogo said.
This, he observed, will increase production at a household level. Rwabwogo added: “To these two, if we add processing and storage capacity and better markets, we wouldn’t need to give lectures or feel pity for African farmers. They can manage on their own other issues such as fertilisers and irrigation, and certainly mitigate effects of climate change.”
Rwabwogo, who is spearheading the latest efforts to increase agricultural exports for the country, expressed concern that farmers do not find scaling up production using machinery in Africa easy because good markets are closed to “us” by trade barriers in the west.
However, Rwabwogo said with basic finance at the micro level and good markets along with logistics and infrastructure, Africa can deal with her problems at a farm level.
“This is where the US should think of putting money. Africa’s ability to use and maintain farm machinery in agriculture isn’t so much, but lack of cash to buy machines,” he said.
Education systems in Africa
Rwabwogo used the occasion to regret and fault the education systems in Africa for not taking a principled stand in prioritising agriculture as a good starting point for industrial transformation on the continent. Climate change has emerged as the greatest challenge to food security not only in Africa, but globally.
That is why, according to Barrios, the earmarked $11b funding would be channelled towards mitigating the effects of climate change in Africa and other parts of the world.
Photo caption: Waheed Qaiser, a British of Pakistani origin, with Rwabwogo during the summit recently. Qaiser seeks to help Uganda raise investment in the Middle East to process food in order to avoid food wastage and gain better markets. Courtesy photo