Kampala. November 8, 2013.The East African Community International Symposium and Exhibition on Agricultural Development opened at the Serena Hotel in Kampala, Uganda
The 4-8 November 2013 Symposium themed: Agricultural Development in the EAC: lessons from the past 50 years and prospects for the future brings together representatives from agricultural development practitioners, NGOs, leaders of organizations of farmers and agricultural sub-sectors in the region to critically assess what worked well in agricultural development during the past 50 years.
“I am pleased that this Symposium together with the pre-symposium of the Youth in Agriculture Workshop as well as the post-symposium for Executive Roundtable, are all designed to use lessons from the past to articulate investments required to take the action plan forward that will transform the Agriculture Sector in the region,” said Uganda’s Vice President H.E Edward Ssekandi while addressing delegates at the symposium.
The Vice President reiterated that the EAC region had potential for crop land expansion, abundant water resources, favorable climate, labor and policy environment to transform the region into a food producer and not an importer. “Our role as government is to create a conducive policy environment that facilitates capital-intensive farming and private investments”, he added. Hon. Ssekandi called for an Executive Roundtable session that will bring together government ministers and CEO’s of private companies to be held on Friday, 9 November 2013, to deliberate on key priorities, realistic targets and responsibilities. “I want to assure you that we shall receive and consider your recommendations seriously, as these will be backed with evidence of your week-long discussions,” he added.
The Vice President challenged Farmers in the region to graduate from marketing raw agricultural commodities to trading in highly differentiated processed products, noting that raw commodities such as bananas, beef, fish, cassava, sweet potatoes and others, pose many challenges to trade competitively.
The Uganda Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Hon. Tress Bucyanayandi, said that Agriculture had remained a significant and dominant sector within the EAC economies with an average contribution to the region’s GDP of 29.3% as of 2011.
“Agriculture provides about 80% of the region’s population, and is the largest contributor to employment in East Africa, employing over 70% of total work force in the rural areas,” added Hon. Bucyanayandi.
The Minister urged farmers to articulate an EAC Regional Vision on Agriculture for the future as a modern and vibrant sector that fully takes advantage of the region’s endowment of resources – youthful population, arable land, water and now the discovery of oil and gas – coupled with the ever increasing global demand for food and agricultural products.
On his part the Secretary General of East African Community, Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera, who was represented by the Deputy Secretary General in charge of Political Federation, Mr. Charles Njoroge pointed out that the International Symposium provides the first ever opportunity for multiple stakeholders to discuss and debate practical actions required to enable smallholder agriculture produce sufficiently, thus eliminating hunger and creating wealth in the region.
Amb. Sezibera reiterated that the symposium is designed to facilitate deeper regional integration needed to accelerate agricultural development through harnessing of the increased opportunities made possible by the East African Common Market.
Among the delegates in attendance were Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Permanent Secretaries from the EAC Partner States, Members of National Parliaments and the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Development Partners, Chief Executive Officers from the Private Sector, Farmer leaders, Ambassadors and Youth organizations.
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