The Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Abdirahin H. Abdi, has said the looming famine in the region is a major concern to the bloc.
Abdi made the remarks while addressing a news conference at the Parliament buildings, Monday, ahead of the EALA session that kicks off in Kigali today.
The regional parliament today begins its first meeting of the fifth session of the second assembly.
He noted that as EALA continues to provide the required impetus to spur regional integration, the Assembly keeps in sight issues that affect the day-to-day lives of the citizens of the region.
“An area of concern for EALA now is the looming famine in the region which is by far the worst in over six decades,” Abdi noted.
“In this regard, EALA has recently joined hands with global parliamentarians from 30 countries under the aegis of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) in appealing for aid to address the extreme hunger threatening the lives of more than 10 million people in the Horn of Africa”.
The Speaker noted that East Africans must find “collective ways and means” in attaining lasting solutions to famine and drought and in becoming food sufficient.
“We must improve agricultural systems, modernise crop production and find better storage systems to improve food security.”
The EALA Speaker also shed light on what they regard as the underlying causes of the predicament, citing global warming, poor farming methods, and poor distribution.
“You find that in some of our regions, there is plenty and in another part of the region, you find people dying of hunger.”
To counter the problem, the Chairperson of EALA’s Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Wildlife, Safina Kwekwe, told reporters that the East African Community (EAC) is working on the premise of two instruments.
“One is the common food security strategy that was passed by this Assembly in December last year. And the second instrument is what we call the East African Agricultural Development Action Plan – a 25 year action plan effective 2010 to 2035,” Kwekwe said, adding that the two instruments are hinged on three pillars, which will allow long term strategies to deal with issues of food security.
The pillars are: increasing productivity, enhancing distribution, and processing of agricultural produce.
According to Kwekwe, examples of national projects to increase food productivity so as to match the population’s [food] needs include Uganda’s National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and Tanzania's new initiative dubbed 'Kilimo Kwanza' (Agriculture First).
She further explained that the second pillar – distribution, looks at ferrying food from agricultural rich areas to those suffering from a deficit within the region, not just within the countries.
On agro-processing, Kwekwe said the Assembly has in place a strategy known as the East African Agro-Processing and Agro-Industry Program “which will ensure that the shelf life for food will be extended.”
President Paul Kagame is set to address a special sitting of the Assembly this morning.
During the two-week sitting in Kigali, EALA will discuss legislative business, including the EAC trans-boundary ecosystem management Bill, 2010, and the Inter-University Council of East Africa (Amendment Bill).