The Herald (Harare)

28 January 2014

Zimbabwe: President Leaves for AU Summit

President Mugabe left the country today to attend the 22nd Ordinary Summit of the African Union expected to formulate strategies to promote agricultural production and ensure food security on the continent. The summit is also expected to assess the security situation on the continent.

President Mugabe is accompanied by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made and his Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development counterpart, Dr Olivia Muchena.

Running under the theme "2014 Year of Agriculture and Food Security, Marking 10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)", the summit will host a side luncheon where Zimbabwe will participate in discussions on the African World Heritage Fund.

The main plenary will consider reports on the continent's peace and security situation; fragile states and assess the African Standby Force.

It is expected to operationalise the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises.

A draft African post-2015 Development Agenda position and the implementation of a resolution on Africa's relationship with the International Criminal Court are also among the key points of discussion.

On agriculture, the Heads of State and Government are expected to review progress towards meeting targets that were set when they met in Mozambique in 2003 to adopt CAADP.

The programme focuses on improving food security, nutrition and reducing poverty. It has an agriculture production growth target of six percent per annum and seeks to increase public investment in the sector to 10 percent of national budgets annually.

By next year, the leaders expect to see dynamic agricultural markets within and between countries and regions; a more equitable distribution of wealth in rural populations and Africa as a strategic player in agricultural science and technology.

They also hope farmers will become active on the market economy; Africa will evolve into a net exporter of agricultural products and promote environmentally-sound agricultural production and sustainable management of natural resources.

CAADP homes in on four major pillars of sustainable land and water management; market access; food supply and hunger; and agricultural research, all of which overarch initiatives working to achieve the targets.

In an interview on Monday, Dr Made said Zimbabwe was already running several initiatives that feed into AU objectives of increased farming output.

He said the massive agricultural input support rolled out to 1, 6 million households countrywide; the Food and Nutrition Policy as well as the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset) indicated progress.

Dr Made revealed that an on-going crop and livestock assessment exercise shows the hectarage of maize planted this season surpasses that recorded during the same period last season.

"What is critical is that CAADP is based on the Maputo Declaration because the African Union will be marking the 10th anniversary of the programme. However, remember that Zimbabwe has been moving with a number of programmes and more recently Zim Asset, which encapsulates food security and nutrition.

"We also have a policy on that subject, a Cabinet committee chaired by the Vice President. When you look at the 10 percent, Zimbabwe has in some years exceeded that percentage. But, of course, in the years that we had other parties in Government, the allocations were not as firm as now.

"This year, with Zim Asset and the emphasis on the inputs programme, it is very significant. We are now going to a stage where rains are falling; this is one of the factors that determine output and obviously the rains have been assisted by our cloud-seeding programme.

"Much more critical is the inputs programme. You can imagine the impact and this is tied to the AU objectives and the wisdom of His Excellency, President Mugabe, that focus must be on households so that they can have food security."

At the African World Heritage Fund luncheon, the leaders are scheduled to examine ways of meeting the objectives of conserving and managing the continent's natural and cultural resources.

The Fund is an inter-governmental organisation supported by the AU and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

It was created in 2006 to address Africa's challenges in implementing the 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage; the under-representation of African sites on the Unesco World Heritage List and the need to strengthen conservation and management practices at these sites.

Its objectives are ensuring good conservation practices, building capacity, increasing the number of African properties on the World Heritage List and ensuring the removal of African sites from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The Fund prepares African states for World Heritage Site nomination and also helps financial contributors to conserve their respective sites.

Zimbabwe has been moving with the rest of the world to strengthen the management systems to protect its cultural heritage through domestic legislation and institutional structures as well as international conventions.

Working via the Zimbabwe National Commission for Unesco, the country seeks to derive maximum benefits from being a Unesco member and contributing to the organisation's global policies and programmes.

Zimbabwe's world heritage sites include the Victoria Falls; Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas Mana Pools; Matobo Hills Cultural landscape; Great Zimbabwe and Khami Ruins.

Commenting on the luncheon, Dr Muchena said: "It is an interactive session, looking at how we are managing our heritage sites in terms of conservation and management. I look forward to this session as we have a lot to share. It is important that the luncheon is being hosted to highlight the importance of the African World Heritage Fund.

"There is a programme on African heritage sites. For instance, in Zimbabwe, we have the Great Zimbabwe and as a ministry, we want to commission a programme that looks at the Great Zimbabwe from a technical, political and historical point of view.

"Great Zimbabwe was built centuries ago before technology became what it is now and it still stands. This says a lot about our scientific DNA and genes in Zimbabwe. While we appreciate it, we are saying that appreciation should be deeply rooted in us at home. Unesco is saying take Great Zimbabwe and put it in your curricula, hence this Fund to conserve heritage sites."

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