The Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) was launched on September 24 2008 by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)’s Ministers of agriculture. On June 9, 2009, ACTESA was established by the Heads of State of COMESA (the COMESA Authority) as a Specialized Agency to integrate small farmers into national, regional and international markets.
On March 1, 2010 ACTESA signed an agreement with COMESA on the implementation of agricultural programmes in the region. The agreement is meant to accelerate the implementation of regional initiatives in agriculture, trade and investment.
Key areas of focus assigned to ACTESA include the development of regional agricultural policies; promotion of investments in agriculture; promotion of trade in agro commodity products and development of production and marketing structures; development of the agricultural, livestock, pastoral and fisheries sectors and consultation with the private sector and civil society organisations on agricultural development matters especially agro commodities trade.
The main goal of ACTESA is to increase farmer productivity and incomes in the Eastern and Southern Africa region through trade in strategic agricultural commodities.
ACTESA is an answer to the region’s agricultural challenges that include trade related constraints, low productivity, technological and policy related constraints. It is an important institution in a region where 85 percent of all staple crop producers are smallholders and of these, only about 15 percent produce for the market and are characterized by poor organization with no predictable selling mechanisms.
ACTESA responds to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)’s Pillar II and III agenda, that seek to improve rural infrastructure and trade-related capacities for market access and increase food supply, reduce hunger, and improve responses to food emergency crises respectively.
Consequently, ACTESA is the primary agency for achieving the COMESA vision of increased regional integration and improved competitiveness of staple food markets, leading to broad based growth and decreased food insecurity.
Specifically, the objectives of ACTESA are to:
- Improve competitiveness and integration of staple foods markets in the region through improved micro and macro economic policies as the drivers of staple food markets;
- Improve and expand market facilities and services for key agricultural commodities;
- Increase the commercial integration of smallholder farmers into national and regional markets.
ACTESA focuses on building market information systems, providing services and increasing commercialization of smallholders in the following sub-sectors:
- Grains and pulses
- Oil seeds
- Roots and tubers
- Livestock and fisheries
- Forest and Natural products
- Tree and plantation crops
- Agriculture inputs
ACTESA targets geographical areas within eastern and southern Africa that include a larger number of vulnerable populations but also have the potential to produce surplus staples for the market.
The target beneficiaries from these areas are farming communities in selected areas that are drought prone, emerging from conflicts, or otherwise vulnerable and may or not be receiving support from food assistance programs to improve their production systems.
By creating ACTESA, COMESA member States showed commitment to ensuring that food assistance and other types of food security interventions in the region are development oriented, and promote sustainability of food security among target beneficiaries.
ACTESA’s key financial partners include:
- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID);
- The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID)
- World Food Programme (WFP)
- The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
- Australian Aid (AusAID)
- The European Commission (EC)
ACTESA’s major implementing partners:
- Farmers’ Organisations;
- Trade associations;
- Commodity associations;
- Agro civil society;
- Commercial and development banks;
- Microfinance institutions;
- Market institutions;
- Seed and fertilizer associations;
- Research institutions.
The Importance of Agricultural Research to the Future of South African Farming
South Africa has a very demanding agricultural environment, with harsh and dry weather being commonplace and soils being mostly quite poor, although there are certain areas such asKwaZulu-Natalwhere conditions are better. But most of the country is very arid. In fact, to those who know those regions, it is difficult to understand the affection that many have and their insistence on attempting subsistence farming in such inhospitable areas. Even the areas with better conditions are subject to occasional storms or droughts which may destroy crops, as with the storm damage from Demoina which caused widespread damage.
Given the uncertainty of farming inSouth Africa, even commercial farmers struggle for survival, and it is very hard for under-capitalised subsistence farmers, although many suffer from the delusion that farming is easy. With this in mind, it becomes obvious that technical support and advice is imperative, and agricultural research into suitable types of farming and crops as well as animals for the different areas is particularly important.
In the Boland, for example, the major crop is wheat. But many wheat farmers farm at a loss because of low prices due to international competition and low wheat prices. Here it might seem that a switch to crops like kamut or spelt/faro might be a good move, as there is an increasing demand for these crops due to an awareness of the problems caused by gluten intolerance. Although they are varieties of wheat – kamut was the wheat grown in Ancient Egypt and faro was the wheat cultivated by the Romans – the gluten they contain seems to cause fewer problems than the gluten in the common wheat originating fromIndiawhich is grown because of its greater yields. However, prices for kamut or faro are higher and there is less competition internationally and there is also no stigma from GMO varieties, while they are also better able to withstand harsh conditions.
So the advantages of such a move would be worth researching. Other crops which are becoming increasingly popular on world markets are acai and cupuacu, which would be suitable for the subtropical regions and might be more profitable than sugar or be grown on farms which do not have a sugar quota. There are many other examples of crops which are coming more to the fore and where export demand would be substantial. Jojoba has already achieved some success, and many stock farmers benefitted from a move to game farming, with lower input costs and the animals being better able to cope under extensive conditions. Something like aquaponics could also prove suitable to produce flowers or organic vegetables for export toEurope. Although this farming method uses a lot of water initially, because the water is recirculated the actual ongoing consumption is quite limited and is much less than with conventional irrigation. And water scarcity is a particular problem in South Africa.
The agricultural research facilities and extension services have already done an excellent job for both commercial and subsistence farmers in South African. It is vitally important for the future food security for our nation that funds for this purpose not be stinted. How else can we keep pace with changes in international markets? We have the example ofZimbabwe, which generally has a better climate and soils than most ofSouth Africa, which went from being the bread-basket of the region and a huge exporter of food and other agricultural products to being absolutely dependant on food imports due to political circumstances. Let’s not let this happen here.
WHAT IS COMESA?
COMESA is an acronym for Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. This describes a free trade area made up of twenty members of states lying within the north eastern, eastern and south eastern side of the African continent. This trading block was formed in December 1994 to replace a Preferential Trade Area (PTA) that existed since the year 1981. COMESA is a pillar to African economic and regional development.
As we have seen, this trading block consists of twenty member states spread out from the Northeastern, Eastern to the South Eastern regions of Africa. The membership includes; Kenya, Djibouti, Burundi, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and recently the newly formed state of South Sudan.
COMESA was established as an organization consisting of free and independent states which agreed to nurture their economic resources for the benefit of all their people. As such COMESA has very long term objectives which among others includes; promotion of a peaceful coexistence and security within the region. COMESA’s chief focus is to conglomeration of a huge economic and trading block that is well capable of overcoming all the barriers that are faced by each of the individual states.
In order to promote a sub-regional cooperation in development, COMESA is subdivided into several institutions . These include:
The trade and Development Bank- Nairobi, Kenya
The clearing house – Harare, Zimbabwe
Association of commercial banks- Harare, Zimbabwe
The Leather institute – Ethiopia
The Re-insurance company- Nairobi, Kenya
The COMESA treaty has also set up a court of justice to deal with all legal matters emanating from within this regional block. There are more initiatives that are tailored towards the formation of a common industrial policy and introduction of a monetary harmonization program.
BENEFITS OF COMESA
This trading bloc offers its member states with a wider, more competitive and harmonized market for their products.
It also creates greater industrial capacity to produce goods in a bigger market with higher levels of competition.
COMESA acts as a channel of stabilizing the agriculture sector thus creating food security within its member states.
This common market offers a more rational exploitation and utilization of natural resources found within its member states.
COMESA also facilitates for greater harmonization of the banking, monetary and financial policies within its member states.
This regional trading bloc facilitates for modern and better infrastructural development more so in the transport and communication sector so as to ensure that the member states are properly interlinked and networked.
COMESA DECISION MAKING ORGAN
This trading block has developed a comprehensive system of decision making to ensures that it runs smoothly and efficiently. This decision making organ is structured at the top level of authority with the heads of state from each member countries forming it. This organ is backed by a council of policy makers made up of ministers, 12 technical committees and several advisory bodies. Each member state is also represented by liaison persons who are appointed by their appropriate ministries to form part of a day to day communication process.
The overall co-ordination of the COMESA affairs is overseen by the Lusaka based Secretariat.
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