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Lusaka, Thursday, October 25, 2018: With the high dependency on agriculture for majority of COMESA Member States, there was need to be vigilant with the threats of climate change that may affect the productivity of the sector, COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe has said.

Hence, the top priority for top priority for COMESA, was to build resilience to the impacts of climate change in the agro-food systems, infrastructure and energy supplies.

Ms. Kapwepwe made the remarks during the opening of a two days Regional Forum on Climate Adaptation and Food Systems Resilience in Eastern and Southern Africa. The forum was organized by COMESA and the World Bank Group. Central to the theme of the Forum is the role of regionalism and collective, supra-national pathways towards resilience.

In her speech delivered by Assistant Secretary General, Mr. Dev Haman, the SG noted that regional integration entails interconnecting physical and non-physical national systems into regional systems. Hence, for resilience interventions to succeed, there was need for high level of awareness especially at the leadership, and an enabling national and regional policy environment with human and institutional capacity to effectively deal with the issues.

“Technology development, transfer and diffusion as well as access to financing by farmers are amongst the key interventions for success,” she said.

The two days forum brought together decision makers from across the COMESA region and representatives from other regional economic communities including the East Africa Community, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Indian Ocean Commission and the Southern Africa Development Community.

Vice President of Zambia, Mrs. Inonge Wina, who opened the forum, said agriculture development and food security were highly at risk due to natural and human induced disasters. This was a result of low public and private investments in relevant sectors; lack of effective evidence- based planning and weak institutional capacities.

She cautioned: “With the El Niño looming in the horizon, there is an urgent need to look at country preparedness for such events and to share lessons, experiences and good practices on matters of climate change.”

The two days forum is intended to facilitate knowledge sharing and exchange in developing shared policies, programming and systems to provide an opportunity for Member States to highlight their development priorities.

The World Bank Director of Agriculture Global Practice, Mr. Simeon Ehui said substantial investments in adaptation will be required to maintain current yields and achieve the required yields to feed the population in the region. he said the region should learn from the past experiences such as the strongest El Niño that occurred in 2015.

“Lessons should be leant and documented from the 2015-16, record-high temperatures, droughts and floods that occurred fueled by one of the strongest El Niño events in recent decades which crippled agricultural production across East and Southern Africa,” Ehui said.

He said the World Bank group is scaling up Climate Smart Agriculture under the Climate Action Plan and is willing to partner with countries that are willing to triple the productivity of agriculture produce to ensure food security.

The forum closes on Friday, October 26, 2018.