Southern African News Features                                           SANF 11 No 22, September 2011
Regional food security to benefit from agricultural research centre
 
By Kizito Sikuka

The launch of a regional agricultural research centre has demonstrated SADC’s commitment to improving food security in the region.

Located in Gaborone, Botswana, the Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA) aims to coordinate and stimulate agricultural growth through research, technology development and dissemination of research information to farmers.

Access to research information is critical for planning purposes, particularly when farmers want to diversify into new crops or livestock.

Coordination in regional agricultural research and development helps to strengthen partnerships between public and private organizations, thus allowing for technology transfer to respond to the needs and demands of the agricultural sector.

Speaking at the launch ceremony held at the SADC meeting of ministers responsible for agriculture, the Vice President of Botswana, Gen (rtd) Mompati Merafhe said advances in agricultural research and technology are critical to boosting food security in the region.

He said SADC was fast expanding, thus the need to keep pace with demand and ensure that the region is self-sufficient in food.

“The challenge of feeding more than 250 million people in the SADC Member States is enormous, and the launching of this centre could not have come at more appropriate time,” he said.

“To keep pace with population growth and other life demands, research and technology development must remain focused and ahead of time,” he added, saying that SADC should clearly position itself to compete with other regions on the global food market.

Merafhe said southern Africa should continue to trust its own scientists who have a rich traditional knowledge base, to exchange their discoveries and inventions to make agriculture competitive.

He urged CCARDESA to live up to the expectations of the region by putting both regional and international resources to good use, and ensure that the research is demand driven and not necessarily to fill a professional gap for self recognition.

The Centre should generate useful technologies to support the interest of both smallholders and commercial farming. Such technologies could include improving storage facilities for farmers to allow them to store their produce for a longer time and gain more from their yields.

A recent study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that most countries in southern Africa lose up to 40 percent of their produce after harvest because of poor storage facilities.

The launch of CCARDESA is therefore, expected to revitalize agricultural research and development in the region to allow SADC Member States to address their challenges.

CCARDESA would also coordinate the implementation of the SADC Multi-country Agricultural Productivity Programme (SADC-MAPP), whose main aim is to promote agricultural development in southern Africa.

CCARDESA was established in 2010 following its approval by the SADC Council. It replaces the Southern African Centre for Cooperation in Agricultural Research and Training (SACCAR) which was established in 1982.

SADC’s Director of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR), Margaret Nyirenda has been appointed to head the Board of Directors.

The SADC meeting of Ministers responsible for agriculture was held in July in Botswana under the theme “Research and Development: Key to Food Security”.

Agriculture is the backbone of most economies in southern Africa, and SADC has identified the sector as a priority for development.

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