The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) is working towards enhancing capacity for its 15-member countries for climate responsiveness in policy formulation and implementation.
According to experts, climate change remains a major challenge to agricultural production in Eastern and Central Africa (ECA) especially through prolonged droughts, delayed onset of rains, floods and emergence of new pests and diseases
Adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) technologies and innovations is therefore critical in adapting to climate change.
Dr. Enock Warinda , ASARECA Executive Director said farmers especially the women and youth are not accessing climate smart agriculture technologies to the same extent as men and their adoption remains low.
Speaking during a regional meeting organized for member countries in Kenya on promoting climate responsiveness in agriculture policy formulation, Dr. Warinda said the meeting was looking at the food system, especially in the 15 countries, how to address it and some of the gaps that would ensure there is enough instead of dependency on outside countries.
“ASARECA is supporting member countries to improve implementation of agricultural policies through looking at regional policy gaps and weaknesses in the climate-resilient transformation of maize-mixed agri-food systems, value chain development, and trade in Eastern Africa”, he said
He noted that most national policies in the region have emphasized the significance of sustainable maize-mixed systems intensification and diversification for climate adaptation and improved rural prosperity, however, challenges persist in coherence, harmonization, and implementation of these policies at the national and regional levels.
He said the 15 member countries comprising of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and the Federal Republic of Somalia which joined in May this year are all facing major climate-related challenges and diseases.
“The policy makers from all these 15 countries in these meeting want to look at how can we make our farmers resilient to climatic changes, the climatic shocks and how we can address this and be able to make farmers access climate smart agriculture technologies “, he said.
Dr. Warinda said the research organizations in the 15 member countries have developed some of the best technologies that can even allow farmers to plant even during the drought and still get good harvest but sometimes policies are a hindrance.
“National development plans are prioritized, farmers can adopt the climate relevant technologies along the various food systems and majorly the food value chains which we have already identified, then they are able to increase their productivity. When they increase the productivity of their major priority commodities then they’ll be able even to have surplus”, he added
He said with surplus, there will be increased trade since there are enough markets within the region. “We are as 15 countries (1/3) one third of the continent in terms of size, but in terms of food productivity, food sufficiency, we are the basket and so we can have enough for even trade in the region.”
Governments, he noted have already identified some of the major commodities they want to work on, and the only thing is to come up with a platform where discussions on cross border trade are held and when these are done, Dr. Warinda said that some of the barriers that even hinder the movement of goods and the movement of food will be done away with.
With the advancement in technology, the Executive Director also said that they want to encourage the development of more youths using the e-platform to even trade more.
“When we look at policies that help us in dealing with climate change, it is a very important document and a very important component that we are now trying to think on how we can develop a good document which we can share with all our 15 ministers, also at the parliaments of East African Community, parliament of IGAD, parliament of Commercial and also the Economic Community of Central African States.”he said .
In these meetings we want to look at how our governments can really come up with a treaty that will stop these border troubles so that movement of certified food and certified products can be done as well as exchange of technologies can be done among countries without a problem.
Dr. Warinda said there is a lot of data that is available from each member country that can be shared as a document that shows which country has got what kind of deficit, which one has a surplus making trade among the member countries flow seamlessly.
He however noted that these can only be done if there are policies that focus on food resilience and resilience against the climatic changes and climatic shocks.
Julian Barungi, Program Officer in charge of policy at ASARECA said that one of the major areas that they are addressing in the policy dialogue is to validate a policy index tool that they are developing to support policy analysis within the member countries.
The index tool, she added, will also track the formulation and implementation of the different policies that affect agricultural research for development, be able to periodically collect data, analyze diverse policies and take stock of changes.
“These are policies that really affect the smallholder farmers at the last mile and that we are all working towards improving their livelihoods. Policies like the national seed policies, the national fertilizer policies and also the national agriculture policies”, Barungi said.
ASARECA wants to be able to analyze both the national policies and the regional policies and assess the adequacy of formulation of these policies as well as implementation.
“We have seen that usually the problem is with the implementation. So we want to make a contribution towards improving the implementation of agricultural policies,” she said.
Barungi emphasized that the ASARECA Agricultural Policy Index tool is to help in assessing the extent to which the agricultural research for development policies are impacting on smallholder farmers and whether they are translating into improved productivity at the farmer level.
The four-day meeting is to discuss findings of policy studies undertaken by Asareca in the recent past looking at the status of polices, laws, regulations, standards and guidelines supported by ASARECA and the status of the GMOs in the countries.
By Wangari Ndirangu