by Kasia Giedroyc BRITISH OFFICIAL aid has been shifted out of directly productive projects which help Africa's farmers just at the time when this support is most needed, said a report, UK Aid to African Agriculture, published last week.
The study, carried out by an eight member all-party group of MPs and peers, said the overall real value of UK agricultural aid had been reduced by one third.
Support for important longterm tropical agricultural research had been cut, and the supply of UK manpower aid to African agriculture had declined alarmingly.
Aid for roads and power projects which may bring indirect benefits to the agricultural sector had held up better and had been successfully: applied to provide business for British suppliers and contractors.
In compiling their report, the members of the Working Party of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Overseas Development, chaired by Jim Lester MP, held discussions with a wide cross-section including agricultural consultants and officials from the voluntary sector.
They talked to Timothy Raison, Minister for Overseas Development, about current government policy on support for Africa's agriculture. They also included a detailed ODA policy note in their study.
The members focused their attention on the UK bilateral aid programme in Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and the Gambia, drawing on visits by members of the Working Party to these and other African countries earlier in 1985.
The report called on the Government to make a statement of aid policy in this area, not least "to set out clearly its views on that range of complex issues such as 'food crops versus cash crops' and 'famine relief versus development aid' which currently befuddle so much of public and parliamentary debate".
The Government should take action, the report said, to stem the decline in its bilateral aid programme and maintain inviolate a substantial portion to assist in long term development. It must also match its robust claim to be helping Africa's agricultural development with substantial new initiatives.
The Working Party insisted that "the Government would be ignoring reality if it were to assume that further cuts in aid spending had general public support".
It added: "During our inquiry and in the course of the African country visits we have formed the impression that the UK aid programme in support of agricultural development in Africa has many strengths. Its obvious successes outweigh the weaknesses and disappointments which have been documented."
• In its annual report published this autumn, War on Want, The Campaign Against World Poverty, announced that 1984-85 had seen "its greatest ever contribution to the war on want in emergency aid, medium and long-term development, education, agitation and effective campaigning".
UK Aid to African Agriculture, was published by the Overseas Development Institute for the Al! Party Parliamentary Group on Overseas Development, price £2.95.