MOST governments in the Comesa region are still reluctant to allocate 10 percent of their annual budgets to agriculture.
This is despite an agreement by Comesa leaders in Maputo in 2003 at the inception of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme.
In interview at the 71st Zimbabwe Farmers Union Annual Congress held in Harare recently, Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa chief executive Dr Chungu Mwila, said it was governments' prerogative to support agricultural productivity to boost food security and enhance the economic situation of their citizens.
The Actesa boss said under the CAADP agreement, African countries were expected to achieve at least six percent growth annually for agriculture to make a dent on poverty, as the continent inched towards achieving the monumental goal of halving poverty by 50 percent by 2015.
"To achieve this, it was agreed that governments needed to allocate 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture annually," said Dr Mwila. "Sadly, this is not happening. Most countries are allocating insufficient resources to agriculture. Maybe competing demands of costs and priorities especially in the sectors of health, education and infrastructural development are chewing the biggest chunks of most governments' budgets at the expense of agriculture."
Dr Mwila said FAO would have wanted the agricultural growth to be seven percent annually instead of six percent, which unfortunately most countries are even failing to reach.
Economic growth should be higher than population growth to make economic gains possible, said Dr Mwila.
He said Zimbabwe had done a lot, but was yet to sign that it was committed to allocate 10 percent of its budget to agriculture.
Only a few countries, among them Zambia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi have signed up.
Rwanda, Malawi and Ethiopia have since passed the 10 percent mark and are allocating more funding to agriculture yearly.
"For countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, to name just a few, where the majority depend on agriculture, there is need for more government support to reduce poverty and hunger by 50 percent by 2015," said Dr Mwila.
He said Actesa had successfully engaged farmers from all Comesa member countries and put in place agro-dealership development programmes to boost productivity.
Actesa has through Comesa extended US$700 000 to Zimbabwe for agro-dealership development, US$400 000 for seed production, 70 000 Euro for laboratory equipment and another 50 000 Euro for seed
Formed in 2009 in Victoria Falls, Actesa is Comesa's specialised agency tasked with integrating smallholder farmers into the mainstream market economy to enable them to earn incomes above their immediate economic requirements and boost their socio-economic realities.