Africa’s largest trading bloc - the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa)- has launched a two year regional food security project worth Sh9.2 billion ($11.5 million) that will link farmers to markets.
The initiative will greatly improve regional trade in food staples and food security in seven member countries, the bloc’s secretariat based in Lusaka, Zambia said in a statement.
The project dubbed Market Linkage Initiative (MLI), is being supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The plan will be implemented by the Alliance for Commodity Trade for Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), a specialised agency of the regional bloc that promotes intra-regional trade in crops, said the statement.
The project would build the capacity of strategic partners to open up market access for smallholder farmers.
The MLI will try to overcome bottlenecks in the agriculture sector by providing key equipment, training smallholder farmers on how to meet market standards and linking areas with good production to those with deficit across borders, according to the statement.
Comesa includes Burundi, the Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) was established in December, 1994. With headquarters in the Zambian capital of Lusaka and enjoys an aggregate population of about 400 million and combined GDP of over $360 billion.