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SFS ASTF Project to strengthen controls in food safety

Sustainable agriculture and natural resources management are of major social and economic importance in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Sub-regional Office for Southern Africa (SFS) Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF) has therefore launched a project to address these issues by putting in place effective prevention and control mechanisms in order to improve food and nutrition security and enhance regional trade of food and agro-products in the SADC Region. This was revealed at the SFS ASTF Inception Project Workshop starting Monday at Tlotlo Hotel and Conference Centre, Gaborone.

The Workshop was held under the theme "Strengthening controls of food safety threats, plant and animal pests and diseases for agricultural productivity and trade in Southern Africa," and its objectives was to create awareness about the project, foster partnerships for the implementation of the project, define roles and responsibilities of different partners and also to identify project activities of relevance to Botswana for input into comprehensive country work plan.

Sina Luchen, Agronomist FAO SFS-Resilience Office for Southern Africa said the project will ensure full compliance to the agreed International norms of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures contribute to increased agricultural productivity and facilitate regional and International trade for improved food and nutrition security in the SADC.

"The project will provides for regional support to countries to improve monitoring of pests and diseases and episodes of contamination of food as well as of the environment and to respond to timely and adequately to address food safety, plant health and animal health issues," revealed Luchen.

He said that the project will help eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable and also reduce rural poverty.

Officially opening the workshop, the Acting Minister of Agriculture, Patrick Ralotsia said that he is pleased to that the FAO through the assistance of the ASTF were able to put together such an important project for Southern Africa.

"This project is expected to address a number of shortcomings in the field of SPS measures and controls in crops, livestock, food safety, fisheries and forestry," Ralotsia said.

He said the project is expected to encourage a more holistic coordination approach in the region, saying for a long time projects on SPS issues have targeted problems in two or three countries.

"However with this project almost half of SADC countries are involved and this gives it a more justifiable regional approach which very few projects have done in the past," said Ralotsia.

He said, "This regional approach to address the gaps and constraints that impede regional integration, harmonization and effective coordination of SPS measures is most welcome."

Ralotsia explained that sustainable agriculture is known to support the majority of SADC Member States' economies and ensure food security, nutritional security and resilience in communities.

"It is therefore heartening to note that this project addresses the very impediments and constraints that limit progress in achieving sustainable agriculture, vibrant intra and inter-regional trade," he said.

He encouraged participants to work diligently to ensure the smooth implementation of the project in respective districts and sectors so that the economy can accrue the benefits of enhanced food security and trade in the country and the region as a whole.

Presenting the ASTF Botswana way forward, Mulila Mitti Joyce, FAO representative said the next step is to come up with a project core team meeting, create national project technical committee, set a date for work plan and budget consolidation with 6th of April 2015 as the deadline and also a sector stakeholder/ partner identification roles and responsibilities.

SFS ASTF was launched in 2013 as a unique Africa-led initiative to improve agriculture and food security across the continent and is also a concrete manifestation of Africa's willingness to work together to guarantee food security of the entire continent.

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