Is EU Promoting Food Security?
The Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA) is responsible for promoting agricultural development in the continent under the vision of an “Africa free of hunger and poverty beyond 2015.”
One of the key areas addressed by the department is to improve agricultural systems and productivity so as to attain food security, enhance nutritional quality and food safety, as well as expand export markets for agricultural products. The other areas include enhancing the human and institutional capacities for rural development through capacity building and knowledge management.
By helping countries to adopt measures that improve their human, animal and plant health situation, and therefore their ability to access and maintain markets, the AU is contributing to poverty reduction and food security in Africa. In addition to ensuring that African countries produce and market quality and safe agricultural products in their domestic markets, facilitating access for them to regional and international markets through greater participation in standard-setting has the added advantage of tapping the potential economies of scale that exist in these external markets.
|Fresh produce on display Photo:Courtesy|
I wish to highlight a few challenges:
1. Compliance with WTO Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary standards which is one of the keys and assurance for unlocking the highly rewarding international markets. Otherwise, high losses are incurred. For example, Mozambique lost 2.5 million USD due to bactocera invadens which led to temporary suspension of market access for 2 weeks.
The Republic of Rwanda provides an excellent model where veterinary officers, public health and plant health officers are all engaged in the survey and reporting of pests of national importance. This networking can be emulated in all African countries for a common goal.
2. EU standards aimed at protecting consumer health pose another challenge. A key requirement is a sharp drop in the use of pesticides. To comply with this requirement, sometimes produces have to change their production systems as well as growing varieties with greater resistance to pests. Even then the approaches to SPS challenges vary from country to country.
Because all measures applied must as of necessity be based on scientific arguments, at the African Union Commission we have concerns that inadequate technical capacity and available resources to engage for SPS requirements continue to be a bottleneck for compliance. Another problem is the inadequate harmonisation at national level. The lack of harmonization and net-working makes it difficult to know what resources a country may have. Other challenges include: inadequate access to information, trained personnel and infrastructure to accelerate the flow of information as well as harnessing the political commitment and will –for adequate coordination/ common position /adequate budgets.
At the African Union level some programs are under way as follows;
-The PAN-SPO-the Pan African program for regional participation in standards setting activities.
-The EU funded Better-training for safer foods- aimed at building capacities and improving infrastructure for SPS in agricultural health and food safety.
- Another project is under negotiation/development for the Infectious Disease Control Program in Africa. This project aims at creating centers of Excellency to diagnose, identify and monitor infectious diseases that may spread from plants and animals to humans.
By bringing the Policy makers, the international standards setting bodies, our trading partners, stakeholders, and donors together as people that desire “Better and safer foods,” we can form a global network not only for capturing and intercepting risks, but that we can together address these risks in a concerted manner, by empowering the producers to do a better job of satisfying our varied choices and tastes for food.
By H.E. Tumusiime Rhoda
AU Department for Rural Economy and Agriculture,
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