By: Ntombi Mhlongo
Agricultural productivity in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region in which the Kingdom of Eswatini is a member has progressively increased despite food insecurity being a major challenge.
The positive news comes at a time when climate-induced shocks such as unprecedented drought in the Horn of Africa, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and other external shocks including the Ukraine-Russia conflict have worsened this situation.
To weather these shocks, the region has embarked on resilience building to ensure sustainable development and management of the environment and natural resources. In this regard, COMESA Secretariat has developed strategic frameworks, plans, and guidelines aimed at enhancing the sustainable development of agriculture, environment, and natural resources for improved food security and livelihoods in the region.
A report on these resilience-building initiatives and other programmes were presented to a virtual joint meeting of Ministers responsible for Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environment held today.
Speaking during the opening of the meeting, Secretary General Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe said COMESA has continued to deploy skills and efforts in designing policies and instruments to hasten agricultural growth and facilitate trade and investment among its Member States and with the rest of the world.
“Driving vibrant, equitable and sustainable agricultural and rural development in our region requires strategic and coordinated investments in social and economic infrastructure,” Ms Kapwepwe added “This is what will enable our rural communities to engage in dynamic and rewarding economic activities,”
In collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, COMESA is implementing a Regional Food Balance Sheet initiative (RFBS) which is designed to provide data, messaging and information that governments, the private sector, and development organizations need to make informed investments, create and implement policies.
This initiative is also supported by the UK Foreign Office, the Commonwealth and Development Office, the USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
The SG outlined some of the key initiatives in place to support Member States which included policy and strategy development on climate change, review of Nationally Determined Contributions and upscaling Climate Smart Agriculture.
Further, the Secretariat has developed a Blue Economy Strategy to promote the development and transformation of an inclusive and sustainable sector. Other initiatives include the development of the COMESA Regional Guidelines for the Establishment, Operation/Management of Warehouse Receipt System for Agricultural Commodities. This initiative is expected to contribute to improved post-harvest management, commodity aggregation and enhance access to markets and trade in quality agricultural commodities within the region.
During the meetings, several cooperating partners including the AGRA, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO,) and the European Union Zambia office made statements urging the COMESA region to support efforts meant to improve productivity and food security.
The Ministerial Meeting was preceded by the 8th joint technical meeting on agriculture, environment and natural resources held virtually 22 -23 November 2022.