25 May 2019

African Co-Operation Benefits Agric Sector

Zimbabwe joins the rest of the continent in commemorating Africa Day against a background of growing co-operation among member states in the field of agriculture, especially in finding ways of mitigating the harsh effects of climate change, crop and animal diseases, and confronting natural disasters in the mould of the recent Cyclone Idai.

The unity among African nations in the agriculture sector has promoted trade and helped in boosting household and national income, food and nutrition security and improving livelihoods of people. This comity has rescued many countries from facing food shortages.

Through trade, African countries have boosted their markets and income.

For instance, Zimbabwe is a major tobacco producer in Africa and is being supported by several counterparts within the region who import the golden leaf. According to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board tobacco exports statistics, South Africa is one of the major buyers of the Zimbabwean produced tobacco.

Botswana and Malawi are also important markets for Zimbabwean flue cured tobacco.

Besides tobacco, African countries also trade among themselves in different agricultural produce such as (SADC), have united against crop and animal diseases and this helped in reducing the negative impact on the member states' economies and also food security.

For instance, SADC climate exerts meet towards the rainy season for the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum to come up with the rainfall forecast, advise their individual member states on the type of the rainfall season and warning different sectors on how they should prepare for the season.

This has resulted in early warning for droughts, floods, tropical cyclones and other weather related phenomena.

The fall armyworm, a trans-boundary pest that is difficult to manage and first reported in Southern Africa in late 2016, continues to cause damage to maize and other crops in the region.

The Sadc region is currently finding ways of dealing with the fall armyworm, a pest that is new to the region. Sadc agricultural experts have met on different fora to share experiences and come up with response action and plans to combat the pest.

With assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organisation, representatives of member states, donors, academia, research organisations and development partners came together to identify policy issues to inform the response in the short, medium and long term.

Africa has on several times been affected by droughts that have resulted in animal deaths and food shortages and in all this the countries had come together to come up with solutions.

Sadc member states carried out multi-sector stakeholders meetings and workshops to mitigate the effects of the El-Nino induced drought during the last rainfall season to reduce food shortages and malnutrition.

Sadc member states developed a regional preparedness and response strategy to address the impact of El-Nino on agriculture, food and nutrition security in the region.

The participants acknowledged that climatic extremes would continue to recur and hence there was a need for the region to develop and implement both short, medium and long-term measures in a coordinated manner.

The cooperation of the member states has been witnessed when one country is attacked by a certain disease. To avoid the spread of the disease from one country to another. African countries inform each other and also the measures they will be taking to control the disease.

This may result in temporary suspension of trade of certain products but will help in reducing the chances of the spread of the disease to other countries.

For instance when South Africa and Zimbabwe were hit by Avian Influenza, they had to notify other countries of the disease outbreak so they become alert, increase vigilance and tighten biosecurity and also and increase their monitoring and surveillance.

Besides fighting animal and diseases, African countries have also cooperated in technology used to boost agricultural production and productivity.

Member states share and learn from each other on latest farming technologies that include better farming methods, improved machinery seed varieties.

The countries have on several occasions converged when carrying out agricultural research on drought tolerant crops, high yielding crop varieties and disease resistance varieties.

The agriculture sector is of major social and economic importance in the SADC region, contributing in the different Member States between 4 percent and 27 percent of GDP and approximately 13 percent of overall export earnings.

About 70 percent of the region's population depends on agriculture for food, income and employment. Hence the performance of this sector has a strong influence on food security, economic growth and social stability in the region.

Thus the co-operation within the region has enabled member states to thrive even under harsh conditions.

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