According to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, agriculture contributes between 4 percent and 27 percent of the regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and about 20 percent of the total export earnings.
In addition to this, more than 70 percent of the region's 277 million people are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.
To ensure that the sector remains an engine for socio-economic development in the region, southern Africa is developing harmonised regional guidelines on the use and disposal of agrochemicals and fertilizers.
This is in line with other SADC instruments such as the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2063, the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security of 2004 and the SADC Regional Agricultural Policy that aim to address poverty and hunger in the region.
At the continental level, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme and the Malabo Declaration also call for improved use of agricultural inputs, including agrochemicals andfertilizers.
The development of harmonised guidelines is, therefore, critical because agrochemicals and fertilizers are the mostly used inputs in the agricultural sector, particularly in the control of pests, diseases and other purposes.
However, if not well managed, especially in their use and disposal they use can result in serious environmental and public health concerns.
In developing the harmonised regional guidelines on agrochemicals and fertilizers, SADC will take cognisance of the various lifecyclesof agrochemicals and fertilizers to ensure that each stage of use, including registration to post registration and disposal, is addressed.
The main aim of the regional guidelines is to promote the effective utilisation and disposal of agrochemicals and fertilizer to safeguard human and environmental health while improving productivity of the agriculture sector.
While the development of harmonised regional guidelines will play a crucial role in enhancing agricultural productivity, the harmonisation will also go a long way in promoting regional integration.
Despite global efforts through international conventions to manage chemicals, adherence is very minimal in the region.
Furthermore, most SADC Member States have varying membership to global conventions, therefore, making it difficult to collectively manage the problems associated with chemicals.
The regional guidelines will therefore, promote risk reductions associated with the use and disposal of agrochemicals and fertilizers.
The guidelines will also improve the use of such inputs thereby improving food security. For example, improper or excessive use of chemicals with unchecked disposal has affected production.
According to the SADC Secretariat's timeframe, consultancy for the development of the guidelines was expected to commence in the first quarter of 2016.
The consultant is expected to, among other things, provide detailed technical steps and procedures describing the appropriate procedures on use and disposal of agrochemicals and fertilizers.
Other tasks include:
- Identifying and analyzingexisting gaps in the management, use and disposal of agrochemicals and fertilizers in safeguarding food safety, human health and environmental integrity; - Developing technical guidelines to promote harmonised use and disposal of fertilizers and agrochemicals in the region; - Identifying the regional monitoring systems for ensuring compliance by Member States; and - Identifying institutional capacity needs at regional and national levels to implement the guidelines.
The guidelines should reflect the scope, implementation and management modalities, as well as address issues relating to protection of the environment, biodiversity and lives through risk-reduction procedures.
The guidelines are also expected to be in line with other existing guidelines, including, but not limited to, codes developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to facilitate the operationalisation and development of synergies, as well as other conventions related to agrochemicals management.
- SADC Today