Gaborone - Botswana last week launched the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP) aimed at promoting collaborative actions at regional level.
Permanent secretary in Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security, Jimmy Opelo, said the project was expected to create and implement an agricultural information management system (AIM) at national and regional level.
Opelo said that the project was in line with the country’s ambition of enhancing information on agricultural production.
He said the project also complemented national actions that stimulated competitive production and agriculture-based products trade while ensuring sustainable utilisation of natural resources and effective protection of the environment. He said it was funded by the 11th European Development Fund Regional Indicative Programme, adding that it was anchored on enhancing information on agricultural production, sustainability and competitiveness for evidence-based decision making.
“This project seeks to implement an effective agricultural information management system (AIMS) to provide policy-makers, planners and economic players’ access to reliable and timely information that is necessary for policy development, emergency preparedness and planning,” said Opelo.
He said another objective sought to improve access to markets through implementation of plant and animal pest and disease control strategies at the regional level.
“These two components are expected in the medium to long term, to create sustainable agricultural growth and socio-economic development due to enhanced production, productivity and competitiveness among others,” he said.
Opelo said AIMS should enable collection, analysis and communication of information on early warning of disasters and monitoring vulnerability, food security and weather patterns in the region. This, he said, would contribute to timely interventions and facilitate the achievement of improved food security.
The project is also expected to help the SADC member states achieve effective control of trans-boundary animal diseases and crop pests, and grow the blocs agriculture sector.
The agricultural sector contributes between 4 percent and 27 percent of GDP across the SADC member states.
“This is with 70 percent of the region’s population depending on agriculture for food, income and formal or informal employment,” Opelo said.
United Nations ’s Food and Agriculture Organisation representative in Botswana, Dr Rene Czudek, said the project is aimed at improving regional and international trade as well as access to markets for agricultural products.
“It is also aimed at enhancing sustainable agricultural production, productivity and competitiveness,” he said.
The revised SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020 has identified agricultural development as one of the key pre-requisites for reducing poverty and enhancing industrialisation of the region.