Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya told a gathering of more than 500 leaders from over 40 countries meeting in Zambia that this approach would not only spur growth of associated industries, but would also improve food security, incomes and create the much needed employment opportunities.
â€œAgriculture is the sector upon which the success of the regionâ€™s ambition for a steady economic growth rests,â€ Mr. Ngwenya said. â€œWe have to come out of the existing crisis stronger by forging partnerships and implementing policies that offer protection to the most vulnerable in our society, increase productivity at farm level and promote intra-regional trade.â€
Mr Ngwenya made the remarks in a speech read on his behalf by the Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) Mr Argent Chuula during the official opening of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF). The theme of the week long forum is â€˜Walking the Talk on Youths and Women-Bringing Inclusive Agricultural Markets to Lifeâ€™.
He pointed out that agriculture was the main source of livelihood for about two thirds of the regionsâ€™ 400 million people. Hence its good performance would be central to ensuring food security and sustainable poverty reduction.
â€œThe growth in the agriculture sector is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors,â€ Mr Ngwenya said.
He cited the challenges facing the sector in Africa as the perennial lack of access to productive inputs, specialized skills and knowledge for the transformation of the sector. This is in addition to under-investment in agricultural initiatives such as research and development that support productivity and develop agricultural capacity, the constraining legal and land policy frameworks and environmental challenges including climate change.
â€œDespite these challenges, women and youth play a key role in agriculture and women are known to produce two-thirds of the worldâ€™s food,â€ he said.
To address these challenges the COMESA Social Charter has a component on youth empowerment that include programmes intended to contribute to the broader development goals of poverty reduction and sustainable and inclusive development, social and political stability, and peace and security within the COMESA region.
And speaking when officially opening the forum, the Acting President of Zambia Her Excellency Mrs Inonge Wina urged the participants to build synergies and partnerships that will help attract agriculture investment to the region.
â€œCountries in COMESA should not work in isolation but should create linkages with neighbours, the private sector, nations and the region and form strong bonds which will open up bigger markets for goods produced in the individual countries,â€ she said. The Zambia government, she said recognize women and youths as an integral part of economic development. Thus is put in place measures such as gender responsive planning, budgeting and implementation aimed at mainstreaming women and youths activities in the countryâ€™s economic policies, programmes and plans.
She commended the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and urged the delegates to align their experiences and information sharing to the CAADP agenda.
The CAADP aims at achieving and sustaining a higher path of economic growth through agriculture-led development on the African continent.
Note: AGRF is an African led alliance that seeks to bring together African political leaders, governments, farmers, private agribusinesses, financial institutions, civil society, scientists and other stakeholders to discuss and develop concrete investment plans for achieving the green revolution in Africa. www.agra.org