Africa’s population is considerably increasing and food security is becoming a challenge therefore availing food for the people is of paramount importance.
At the same time trade within Africa within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region is also increasing and with this the spread of pests and diseases is not uncommon.
Speaking on Wednesday during COMESA’s 9th Technical Meeting of the Regional Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) meeting in Nairobi.
The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) MD, Dr. Esther Kimani said there is therefore need for innovation and strategy in order to the achieve food security .
“Pest incursions have culminated in devastating impact on agriculture, biodiversity and the entire regional economy and this is a barrier to food security and international market access, and expensive to manage,” she said in a speech read on her behalf by James Wahome, KEPHIS Liaison Officer.
Dr. Kimani noted that there is a growing need for an integrated regional approach to spread management, diffuse gaps in the current SPS systems, and identify prioritized risks, threats, and responses across the region.
Dr. Kimani explained that there is a COMESA SPS strategy (2016-2020) that is to guide member state actions and decisions on SPS matters thatsupport a fully integrated, internationally competitive regional economic community which promotes shared prosperity and improved livelihoods for all its people.
The COMESA Senior Private Sector Development Officer, Innocent Paradzayi Makwiramiti said COMESA seeks to enhance the SPS capacity of the public and private sector institutions of member states in order to gain and maintain regional and international market access for food and agricultural products.
Strategic partnerships, he noted have been enhanced with development partners to deliver SPS capacity that is very critical as member states seek to diversify exports and increase regional and international trade.
“COMESA has introduced evidence based economic analysis to prioritize and integrate SPS investments in national planning, policy and investment frameworks,” he said.
In addition, Makwiramiti said that COMESA has delivered technical support to address SPS capacity needs as well as facilitate market access in a number of countries.
All this he added has been done in the quest to highlight and address the key SPS issues affecting trade in the area of plant health, animal health and food safety.
He noted that today’s meeting provides an opportunity for countries that have participated on these programmes to share their experiences, learn from each other and agree on collective actions to scale up the successes that have so far been achieved.
Agriculture remains the most important sector in the COMESA region, averaging 32 percent of the region’s GDP, while agribusiness input supply, processing, marketing and retailing contributes an additional 15 percent.
The growing incomes and urbanisation are the driving force behind this growth and the commercialization of agriculture which has attracted the attention of Governments and steadily increased investments into the sector over the last few years in pursuit of the Maputo declaration to invest at least 10 percent of the national budget and target a minimum of 6 percent annual growth.
Today’s 9th technical sensitization meeting was running under the sub theme Prioritizing SPS capacity needs to enhance intra COMESA trade.
By Wangari Ndirangu