Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014, The Year of Family Farming: is it Time to Celebrate or Screech in East Africa?

By Kimbowa Richard, Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development

Given that the East African Community (EAC) Treaty is almost 15 years old and the EAC Food Security Action Plan is due to ‘expire’ next year (2015), it is judicious to start a clear-headed reflection to establish how far these commitments have been effected to benefit the peoples of East Africa within the context of the 2014 World Food Day theme: To what extent has the promotion of modern farming methods been done in order to ensure that there is enough food for home consumption (family) and a surplus for export (Article 105)? How far has breeding of quality seeds and their proper distribution to farmers been ensured (Article 106)? What is the progress in promoting the production of high quality livestock in the EAC (Article 107)? How far have the Partner States cooperated in the control of plant and animal diseases (Article 108)? What is the progress in expansion of land for farming through irrigation and other water trapping methods (Article 109)? Is there enough food for everyone in East Africa (Article110)?

East Africa largely depends on rain fed agriculture making rural livelihoods and food security to be highly vulnerable to consequences of climate variability and change. It is also noted that agriculture provides a living for 80% of East Africans. Agriculture and livestock production in East Africa is hampered by its reliance on unreliable rainfall and absence of water storage facilities compounded by, poor land use practices and antiquated technology and farming methods.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations marks World Food Day each year on 16 October, the day on which the Organization was founded in 1945. The 2014 World Food Day theme - Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth” seeks to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. It focuses world attention on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas. According to FAO, family farming is inextricably linked to national and global food security. Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector. Family farming includes all family-based agricultural activities, and it is linked to several areas of rural development.

Food Security Situation in East Africa Vs the EAC Treaty Provisions

The East African Community (EAC) region is frequently affected by food shortages and pockets of hunger although the region as a whole has a huge potential and capacity to produce enough food for regional consumption and a large surplus for export to the world market. For example, the latest Food Security Outlook Report from FEWSNET indicate that about 14 million people in East Africa are in stressed, crisis, and emergency including in north-eastern Burundi, Djibouti, eastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, eastern Rwanda, Somalia, western, south-eastern, and north-eastern Sudan, north-eastern Uganda, and central Tanzania.

There are many factors leading to this state of affairs but the most critical are: inadequate food exchange/trade between times and/or places of abundant harvest on one hand, and those with deficit on the other; high variability in production caused by high variability of weather which is becoming worse due to climate change; and conflict.

In response to this, an East African Community Food Security Action Plan (2010 – 2015) with a budget of USD about USD 43.11billion was developed to address food insecurity in the region, as an initial step of implementing the provisions of the EAC Treaty as set out in Chapter 18 (Articles 105 -110).

It is in this regard that the East African Sustainability Watch (EA SusWatch) Network commissioned a study (in form of a Score Card) within the bounds of the Lake Victoria basin, to assess 2 key regional commitments: The Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) Regional Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing on Lake Victoria and its basin that is related to fisheries (due the rampant unsustainable fishery practices on lake Victoria); and the EAC Food security Action Plan – as food security an already a perennial challenge in East Africa, could be worsened by the region’s rapidly growing population— already one of the highest in the world. This study is in line with the desire to contribute to 2014 as the African Union’s African Year of Agriculture and Food Security which is also the United Nations’ International Year of Family Farming. It complements the EA SusWatch Network’s Lake Victoria Climate Change Readiness Brief No.3.

Key issues from the Sustainable Development Score Card in relation to fisheries, nutrition and food security in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda 

The EAC Food Security Action Plan is organized into four sections. Section one contains the introduction which highlights the background to the development of the EAC food security action plan and the constraints in achieving food security in the EAC. Section two describes the contexts for the EAC food security action plan. Section three provides for the priority areas for the EAC food security action plan while Section four provides detailed action plans which include implementation and coordination arrangements, monitoring and evaluation and resource mobilization for implementation of the Plan.

The Sustainable Development Scorecard focused on the three parameters: Enhancing access to food (9 indicators); Increasing production by enhancing productivity (11 indicators); Improve and accelerate implementation of policies, strategies and institutional framework (3 indicators).

I would like to restrict this article to the findings on the selected indicators related to the ‘social goods’ under the 3 parameters, as summarized below in for the three countries, in view of the World Food Day 2014 theme.

Improvement in access to food: Supporting development of fisheries infrastructure

In Kenya, the main laws governing fisheries activities (including small and medium pelagic fisheries) are the Fisheries Act Cap 378 (1991). In 2012 the number of landing sites in Kenya on Islands was sixty two (62). Many landing sites do have fish bandas, where fish is received, weighed and sold to traders or agents. Though efforts have been made, most of the fish landing sites have inadequate infrastructure from poor roads, to lack of clean drinking water, adequate public toilets. The main challenge is limited budgetary allocation to manage the beaches around the country. Hence, there is need to increase budgetary allocation for fisheries activities, specifically improving facilities at the landing sites

According to the 2010 Frame Survey, the majority of the landing sites in Tanzania do not have basic facilities: only 74 landing sites had roofs and 10 had refrigeration units. Only 52 had drying racks and 104 had kilns for smoking fish indicating that processing facilities are not sufficient. According to LVFO report, in 2012, Tanzania recorded a decrease by one landing site from 216 to 215 landing sites. The Tanzanian Government has promoted the development of facilities, particularly around landing sites that focus on Nile perch. There are now 26 of these comparatively well-equipped Improved Landing Sites in Kagera, Mwanza and Mara.

According to the Fisheries Union Organisation (FUO), efforts to improve fishing infrastructure has largely been by the private sector. The cooling and transporting of fish from the landing site is purely by private sector. The main challenge is poor management of few facilities leading to dilapidation. Hence, there is need to enhance capacity of the Beach Management Unit (BMU) officials in carrying monitoring these facilities within their sites and liaising with relevant ministry for maintenance

In Uganda, government through the relevant ministry has made efforts to develop fisheries infrastructure. Community processing infrastructure (drying racks, dip frying and smoking kilns) were constructed for Mukene processing at Katebo (Mpigi) and Kikondo and Kiyindi (Buikwe) and Katosi (Mukono) and Kasekulo (Kalangala) landing sites on Lake Victoria Plate. Completed 20 urban and rural fish markets in various Districts. The Department has constructed four regional fish fry production (hatcheries) and demonstration centers in Mbale, Gulu, Kajjansi and Bushenyi under Fisheries Development Project. Fish handling structures have been constructed in Ntoroko and Kayei landing sites in Ntoroko and Apac districts respectively. Ice plants installed at Majanji, Gorofa, Bwondha, Bugoto, Mwena, Bukungu and Butiaba landing sites and new ones have been constructed at Nakasongola district headquarters and a cold storage installed at Bakuli fish market.

Handling facilities, ice plants, storage facilities, sanitary conditions (including boats with containers) are either lacking or inadequate at landing sites, contributing to poor fish quality while also making it difficult for fisheries managers to enforce the provisions of the Fish Act and related subsidiary statutory instruments that were premised on availability of such infrastructure. The main challenges include limited resource allocation for construction and or maintenance of social facilities within the landing sites and the continued decline in Nile perch stocks, a target for the export market. Hence, there is need to for Government partnership with private sector to improve infrastructure along the landing sites as well as sustainable harvesting measures for the Nile perch stocks

Increasing production by enhancing productivity: Eradication of illegal fishing practices and trade in undersize fish 

It was noted that Kenya is making great strides in the eradication of illegal fishing practices and trade in the undersized fish. Under section 46 of the Fisheries Management and Development Bill, 2011, use of certain fishing gears and methods is prohibited. Under section 47, the Bill also prohibits damage, destruction to and interference with fishing gear and vessel. However along Lake Victoria, despite the regulations, there have been cases of use of destructive fishing gears leading to overfishing.

The national fisheries management capacity has been weak and has not been able to ensure that there is proper Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS), and as a result there has been no data collection. An estimated potential of over 150 000 metric tons has been given but is subject to confirmation through a comprehensive stock assessment. The main challenge relates to inadequate sustained enforcement of fisheries regulations, inadequate clarity on policies regarding Illegal fishing practices, and insufficient support to alternative income generating activities to capture fisheries.

Hence, there is need for government to focus on participatory enforcement of existing legal, strengthen the capacity of institutions such as Fisheries Department to enforce fisheries regulations, and for community members to be supported in alternative income generation activities.

In Tanzania, LVFO technical report on stock assessment shows that the number of fishers who use smaller–meshed net grew much more rapidly in 2011. In February 2009, the Council of ministers of Lake Victoria approved the zero tolerance measure to remove illegal gears to a minimum by 50% by June 2009 and by 100% by December 2009. The main challenges are inadequate awareness/ sensitization campaigns on illegal fishing practices carried out, as well the inadequate regular inspection and monitoring of fishing activities. Hence, more awareness and education efforts on the appropriate fishing practices should be enhanced while more coordinated monitoring and surveillance effort by the combined government and BMU officials should be enhanced.

In Uganda, implementation and enforcement of the Fish Act are normally through controlling access (LVFO, 2005). Access to fisheries in Uganda has for a long time been controlled through licensing (Ministry of Natural Resources, 1995; Department of Fisheries Resources, 2008). The challenge is the remoteness of some of the landing sites and the inadequate transportation infrastructure that were found to impose severe constraints on the implementation and enforcement of the fishing legislation on Lake Victoria. Hence, there is need to enhance capacity of the BMUs in the remote areas to effectively implement and enforce the fishing legislation

Increasing production by enhancing productivity: Promoting community participation in management of fisheries through Beach Management Units

In Kenya, Government has recently emphasized on fisheries co-management and strengthened the previously inefficient BMUs, for example, though training of 117 BMUs was supported in 2011/2012 a lot more is still needed for further development. Despite these policy frameworks, capacity, strategies, and tools of management have not substantially changed. The main challenges include lack of legal framework and clarity on the mandate of the BMUs. Hence, there is a need to develop a legal framework for BMUs, as well as enhancing capacity building for the BMU members on their roles and responsibilities

From the monitoring and evaluation report reviewed in Tanzania, it was realized that only a small proportion of BMUs (4%) was involved in vetting of licensing. After the review of the frame survey of 2010, it was also noted that BMUs are not effectively helping to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Lake Victoria, because of the presence of informal landing sites. The main challenges include lack of fisher folk understanding of the BMU concept, inadequate funds to facilitate BMU activities, and lack of capacity and power for BMUs to enforce the law on illegal fishing practices. Hence, there is need to create more awareness on the importance of community participation in the fishing industry, mobilise more partners to support the BMU activities, and capacity building and institutionalizing the BMUs to enable them enforce the law on illegal fishing practices

In Uganda, government in partnership with the BMUs are enforcing the Fish Act regulations. According to the new BMU Uganda Statutory Instrument, a Beach Management Unit is an organization of fishers (boat crew or fishing labourers), Boat /Gear owners, Managers, caterers, Artisanal among others). Available information reveals that the 355 BMUs serving 548 landing sites, have total membership of 64,130 with average of 209 members. Generally BMU leaders were reported to comply with the fisheries laws and regulations. However, at some landing sites, the committee members were strongly engaged in use of illegal gears and also promoted illegal fishing on the lake through reselling of already confiscated gears to other fishers at different landing sites.

The main challenges include existence of several community institutions within the landing sites, with different and often conflicting interests undermining the existence of the BMUs; inadequate equipment to carry out work like boats, engines and fuel; and lack of comprehensive training of the BMU officials on various aspects of their work. Hence, the institutions charged with the responsibility of institutionalizing BMUs, as well as the BMUs themselves, should endeavour to improve the low understanding of co-management among the different stakeholders, including the roles of the BMUs; adequate tools and equipment should be provided to BMUs to fully execute their mandates; while the BMU capacities to manage and generate revenues need to be strengthened.

Improve and accelerate implementation of policies, strategies and institutional framework: Implement the 10 per cent budget allocation for agriculture focused on strategic investments

The assessment showed that Kenya allocated an average of only 4.6 per cent of its national budget to agriculture during 2009-13. Lack of capacity and poor coordination can mean that budgets (often already low) are not entirely spent. Kenya’s actual spending on agriculture averaged 80 per cent of its budget allocation during 2009/10 and 2011/12, while delayed disbursements of funds from donors and cumbersome international procurement procedures lead to slow expenditures. Hence, there is need to invest more in adequate staff training and capacity building in the agriculture sector and improve coordination between and among Ministries by learning from best practice elsewhere as well as ensuring disbursement of funds for timely implementation of projects

In Tanzania, the assessment showed that the country allocated approximately 3.4% in the year 2009 – 2013. The main challenge related to inadequate funds to increase budgetary allocation, hence the need to increase budgetary allocation by 6% to bridge the deficit, through grants from various development partners

In Uganda, The assessment showed that government allocated an average of only 3.5 per cent of its national budget to agriculture during 2009-13 (ActionAid Walking the Talk, December 2013). The main challenge is that although increasing budgetary allocations to the agriculture sector is laudable, those increases must be followed by the efficient allocation, utilization, and management of such resources if they are to stimulate and lead to the desired growth and development of the sector. Hence, there is need to mobilize more funds from development partners to increase the allocation of budget to improve agricultural productivity as well as enforcement of laws to ensure proper utilization of public funds

Overall, “Feeding the world, caring for the earth” in the Lake Victoria region and East Africa in general brings to the fore the urgent need to devise strategies to address the declining commercial fisheries stock, while addressing food insecurity scenarios through capacity building of farmers, fisher folk and supportive institutions within a co-management context. Furthermore, enforcement of rules regarding sustainable use of land, water, fisheries and other natural resources needs to be scaled up through experiential learning involving farmers, fishers and other actors.

Above all, in relation to the Treaty provisions and the Food Security Action plan, the EAC should promote a participatory monitoring mechanism to regularly capture achievements that can be replicated, while addressing loopholes in real time.