Wednesday, May 26, 2010

COMESA and EU sign a 20 million Euro Agro Input Project

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the European Union have signed a 20 Euro million contribution agreement to support the COMESA agro inputs project known as (COMRAP).

This will contribute to improving rural household food security and livelihoods in the COMESA region. More specifically, over the next two years, the project will improve smallholders' access to agro inputs and will improve the regional legal frameworks so as to increase agricultural productivity. The project will alleviate the constraints faced by smallholder farmers who want to access seeds, fertilisers and financing in order to increase the volume of their staple crop production.

The project finds its origins in the decisions taken by the COMESA Council of Ministers in 2008 to facilitate regional seed trade and provide farmers with more crop and variety options at lower prices. It will be implemented by the newly created Agricultural Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), a COMESA mechanism to support and coordinate agricultural markets and food security activities at regional level.

COMRAP is funded through the EU Food Facility, a specific EU instrument operating over a 3-year period from 2009-2011 with a global budget of €1 billion. The Facility enables developing countries and regions facing financial constraints, to respond rapidly to problems caused by soaring food prices.
COMESA Secretary General Mr Sindiso Ngwenya described COMRAP as key in contributing to the improvement of rural food security and livelihoods in the COMESA region through improving access to finance, fertilizer and seed.

“COMRAP assists COMESA meet key objectives of the COMESA Treaty particularly those under Chapter 18 which clearly state that COMESA is responsible for harmonizing policies, stabilizing of agricultural commodity prices, coordination in bulk purchases of inputs and ensuring adequate supply and availability of food commodities,” Mr Ngwenya revealed.

The Head of EU Delegation in Zambia Dr Derek Fee who is also accredited to COMESA, Derek Fee, said "As you all know, the developing world has been particularly hit by the soaring food prices, with often devastating effects in terms of household food security. I very much hope that this EU support will contribute to alleviating the impact of the soaring food prices, and that the benefits of the project will be substantial for the smallholder farmers in the region".

Specifically COMRAP will increase access to structured financial services by farmers, reduce interest rates and increase the volume of loans to smallholders. It will promote weather indexed insurance to assist farmers hedge against droughts and reduce the bank risk perception of the agricultural sector. The programme will reach over 700 bank executives and front office staff, as well as over 100 insurance officers.
COMRAP will establish a network of about 6,000 certified agro dealers in COMESA’s landlocked countries where the costs of inputs are highest, it will ensure that three million smallholder farmers have an improved and sustainable access to agro-inputs and services in the COMESA region, particularly in eight landlocked countries.

COMRAP will harmonize and improve seed trade regulations throughout the COMESA region and support seed multiplication activities by farmer organizations in the region. COMRAP will be fully integrated into the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) in 2011.