Agriculture is one of the East African region’s most important sectors, with about 80 percent of the population of the East African Community Partner States living in rural areas and depending on agriculture for their livelihood.
The sector accounts for about 34% of the GDP in Burundi, 29% in Kenya, 32% in Rwanda, 25% in Tanzania and 23% in Uganda, (2014 figures), although its contribution to these economies continues to decline.
Agriculture and Food Security is a key area of cooperation as outlined in Chapter 18 (Articles 105-110) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, and key among the objectives of the EAC is the achievement of food security and rational agricultural production.
The East African Community Agriculture and Rural Development Policy (EAC–ARDP) has been developed as an initial step towards the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty. The Policy reflects the commitment of the Partner States to foster their economic co-operation for the benefit of their peoples.
The EAC-ARD Policy will guide in the development of strategies and programmes and projects for realisation of the aforementioned objectives of the EAC.
Since agriculture employs over 80 percent of the rural population -- the majority of whom are poor -- development of the agriculture sector presents a great opportunity for poverty reduction in a sustainable manner. Agriculture also contributes to foreign exchange earnings, employment and provides raw materials for agro-based industries.
The agricultural sector is dominated by smallholder mixed farming of livestock, food crops, cash crops, fishing and aquaculture. The major food crops are maize, rice, potatoes, bananas, cassava, beans, vegetables, sugar, wheat, sorghum, millet and pulses. Some of these are also sold and could be regarded as cash crops. Cash crops include: tea, cotton, coffee, pyrethrum, sugar cane, sisal, horticultural crops, oil-crops, cloves, tobacco, coconut and cashew nuts.
The livestock sub-sector consists of cattle, sheep, goats, and camels, mainly for meat and milk production; pigs and poultry for white meat and eggs respectively; hides and skins for export and industrial processing. Fisheries products include both fresh water fish from rivers, dams and lakes and marine fish from the Indian Ocean. Forestry products include fruits, honey, herbal medicine, timber and wood for fuel.