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Nairobi, Monday September 5, 2016: Seven COMESA countries have translated the regional Seed Harmonization Implementation Plan (COMSHIP) regulations into local languages to enable a large number of farmers to access and understand the laws. This initiative has the potential to greatly increase food security in the region.

The languages are Kirundi (Burundi) Swahili (Kenya) Tumbuka and Chichewa (Malawi) Kinyarwanda (Rwanda) Luganda (Uganda) Tonga, Lozi, Bemba and Nyanja (Zambia) and Shona and Ndebele (Zimbabwe).

The Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) Chief Executive Officer Mr Argent Chuula described the development as positive and necessary for COMSHIP to achieve its objective of increasing seed production and availability in the region.

He was speaking in Nairobi Kenya at the opening of the second COMSHIP Implementation Progress Review meeting.

Mr Chuula also revealed that Burundi and Rwanda have completed the alignment and gazetting of their seed laws and regulations to COMSHIP. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia were finalizing the alignment of their seed laws and regulations.

“As ACTESA, we are on a transforming journey. If we improve seed access to three out of every four farmers then the issue of hunger will be in the past. Making seed information easily available and understood in the local language is key to ending poverty in our region,” Mr Chulla said.

The meeting was attended by member States and partners to assess, review and agree on the evolving mutual accountability framework and on the steps that need to be taken towards improving implementation of the regulations in member States.

Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Principal Secretary, Dr Richard Lesiyampe urged member States to domesticate the COMSHIP as this would enhance farmer’s access to seed through simplified customs procedures, speedier seed varietal release and distribution into the COMESA region.

Dr Lesiyampe, who was represented at the meeting by the Director of Policy Research, Ms Ann Onyango said the seed industry in Kenya had experienced significant development in the last five years due to liberalization.

“Indeed, Kenya is in the process of finalizing aligning the national seed laws and regulations to COMSHIP,” he said.

USAID Kenya and East Africa Deputy Mission Director Dr Candace Buzzard commended ACTESA for the progress made in encouraging member States to domesticate the COMSHIP laws and regulations.

“COMSHIP has the potential to improve farmer’s access to improved seed varieties through simplified customs procedures, eliminating excessive quarantine requirements and improving resilience by increasing access to drought and heat tolerant seed,” she said.

USAID has been working closely with COMESA and ACTESA to support efforts to increase seed production, reliability, trade and competitiveness of the seed industry across the region through the COMSHIP.