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Cycling for food security and safety for East Africans

The Great Africa Cycling Safari (GACS) riders rode through Eldoret as they continued their epic this year’s 56-days ride across the East Africa Community (EAC) Partner states to advocate for the EAC Secretariat`s integration awareness, cross-cultural interaction, environmentally responsible tourism, economic growth, Gender and human capital, food security, food safety, and health in East Africa.

This year’s GACS’s 6th edition which covers a total of 6000 Km across EAC member states with exception of Congo and South Sudan due security reasons, has the primary theme of “Food Security and Food Safety For All East Africans” where the regional heads of state place a high priority on ensuring food security and safety for all people living in East Africa through addressing problems like post-harvest losses, food waste, and market access in addition to raising agricultural productivity.

The Safari is an annual cycling activity that serves as a regional advocacy podium supporting the EAC integration process.

Speaking during flagging off ceremony at his office, Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Dr Eddyson Nyale commended the GACS team which comprised of 19 youth cyclists drawn from across the EAC partner states for their dedication and effort to participate in the annual event in order to advocate for peace and unity to support the EAC full integration process.

“I know and understand the relevance and importance of peace and importance of youth being part and parcel of this process because you are the ones holding the East Africa Community. I am happy to receive and flag off you here. May you have a safe journey as you travel and pass along the Kenyan land and borders,” said Dr Nyale.

On his part, George Ochieng Olwal, an East African from Kenya, pointed out that the GACS is a great initiative for Africans as it provides a platform to promote peace, trade among other key things within the EAC.

He decried the insecurity issues experienced in South Sudan and Congo which has made it impossible for them to pass through those member states and as well as making it difficult for the teams from those countries to participate in the annual event.

“Am happy with this cycling safari. Currently we are activating for the challenges faced by the East African countries, like full integration especially at the border when an East African is travelling from one nation to another,” he said.

“Insecurity matters especially our guys from South Sudan could not be participating in this safari because of insecurity matters and we are not passing through Congo and South Sudan because of security matters. If those issues will be addressed, we will be good,” he added.

During the stopover in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County on August 3rd, the GACS team planted five trees to symbolize the five member countries they would be traversing, that is from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and back to Kampala where they will hold the grand finale.

In her remarks, a Ugandan female riding in the GACS 6th Edition Nakabute Shamal said that they were riding the bicycle through the East Africa Community to create an awareness that they are the wheels of integration and that they have to persist on it.

She said with this year’s theme being on food security and food safety for all East Africans, the team calls on everyone out there to plant more trees that bear fruits noting that, in anytime of drought that they can’t plant trees or cultivate anything, the trees that bear fruits could be of use to people in terms of food.

“I urge everyone out there, it shouldn’t be now or tomorrow, it should be always, let us all focus on the roads to integration, we are one people leading to one destiny we should not segregate anyone. Am a Ugandan but am proud and humbled to be in Kenya,” said Shamal.

She further expressed contentment about gender inclusivity in the EAC member states particularly in the GACS where female riders have also been included in the annual cycling event.

“Currently, not back in the days, the generation is changing whereby people, particularly men, are giving ladies opportunities showing them that they can as well be like them unlike back in the days where women were meant to be at home where mothers were called housewives. Apparently, even the woman can sustain her family even when the man can’t,” she said.

Among the GACS 2023 activities along the tour route is set to establish climate change clubs, food security clubs, plant nursery beds, and community forests within schools and communities in Naivasha, Nairobi, Voi, Tanga, Bagamoyo, Morogoro, Gairo, Shelui, Nzega, Kailua, Ngozi, and Katunguru.

Additionally, the bicycle expedition seeks to encourage community participation in environmental conservation initiatives as a way of fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility for the local ecosystem.

The GACS 2023 6th Edition further aims at promoting the objectives of the East Africa Community, which include regional integration, economic development, and political cooperation through collaborations among member states to harmonize policies and regulations, facilitate trade and investment, and promote cross-border infrastructure development.

It further focuses on ecological restoration and response to climate change by protecting natural resources such as forests, wetlands, and biodiversity hotspots, as well as implementing sustainable land use practices that support both conservation and economic development.

Additionally, GACS looks forward to unlocking the bicycle tourism potential of the EAC for the region has the potential of becoming the top bicycle tourism destination of the world because it is gifted with an amazing climate, tourist attractions and hospitable people.

By Ekuwam Sylvester

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