THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has adopted a Covid-19 food security response plan to help the region deal with the impact of the pandemic on regional food security and input supplies.
First detected in China last December, Covid-19 has so far spread across the world claiming thousands of lives.
Ministers responsible for agriculture, environment and natural resources within the 21-member bloc adopted the food security response plan at a recent 7th joint meeting conducted virtually.
“The ministers expressed concern about the unfolding effects of Covid-19 on food and nutrition and called on member states to immediately mobilise resources to support the implementation of the regional plan to ensure food security,” said Comesa in a statement.
The member states, which include Zimbabwe, have also committed themselves to ensuring that food and agricultural input markets and supply chains, along with associated logistics and services, remain open and functional in line with the Comesa-East African Community-Sadc Tripartite Covid-19 guidelines.
In a declaration issued at the end of the meeting, the ministers pledged to support agricultural research to develop, transfer and disseminate technologies, innovations and management practices that are climate-resilient, market-responsive, suited to assorted agro-ecological contexts and end-user preferences in the region.
“We commit ourselves to supporting smallholder farmers to increase production and productivity, through access to inputs, services and improved technologies including seeds, planting materials, fertiliser, veterinary products and animal feeds.”
Comesa secretary general, Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe, said a lot more still needs to be done for the region to effectively address the challenges of climate change, transboundary plant pest and animal diseases, and degradation of natural resources.
“We need to build the resilience of our agriculture and agri-food systems as well as ecosystems for greater functionality and efficiency.
“This will also call for adoption of comprehensive approach to early warning, disaster preparedness and response including social protection and safety net systems,” she said.
Ms Kapwepwe urged member states to collectively deal with food safety issues to further open-up markets and enhance trade in safe agricultural and food commodities in the region and in the context of African Continental Free Trade Area. As part of efforts to boost sustainable agricultural productivity, the Comesa secretariat has supported member states to adopt Climate Smart Agricultural policies and strategies and implementation of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme through technical and advisory support.
The secretariat has also supported the development of livestock and fisheries through provision of financial, technical and organisational support in the development and implementation of policies and strategies.
Through its agency, the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa, Comesa has been working with member states and partners in harmonising and domestication of the seed trade regulations to promote cross-border seed trade to ensure farmers have access to quality seeds.
Representatives of partner organisations such as Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa and the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources, among others, attended the meeting.