Agricultural Inputs are the Sine qua non of agricultural production. Without seed or planting, material production may not start. Without organic and inorganic fertilisers, full production capacity may not be realised. Similarly production potential may not be realised if crop protection products are not used when the situation demands their use.
Rampant poverty and low intra-trade in agriculture in the COMESA region is largely attributed to low productivity. Promotion of responsible use of inputs is therefore pivotal in addressing these challenges. More than half of the goal of reducing hunger and poverty by 2015 can be addressed through strategies that aim at improving productivity.
The Inputs Unit’s activities are specifically designed to address among others the two major challenges highlighted above hence reduce poverty and hunger. These activities fall into two broad categories as follows:
- Creating an enabling policy environment that will promote the adoption and sustainable use of agricultural inputs; and,
- Designing and ensuring the implementation of programmes and projects that are meant to support objectives under the first category.
The foregoing also entails designing structures and systems that ensure strong implementation linkages from regional to grassroots level and flow of outputs (goods and services) from the grassroots to regional and international markets.
COMESA AGRO-INPUTS PROGRAMME (COMRAP)
Prices of the major staples doubled during 2007-2008, which together with the global financial crises have serious food security implications for over 1 billion people worldwide, and over 250 million people in the COMESA region alone. As if this was not enough, a global economic crunch followed in 2009 threatening donor support for food security and investments. Thus, as a result of the high food prices and deep financial crisis, low agriculture productivity and per capita agricultural production is likely to deepen even further in Africa due to reducing investments in agriculture. Most specifically, rising agro input prices have the effect adversely impacting on the purchase productivity enhancing inputs including fertilisers, seeds, and crop protection products. The COMESA Agro-Inputs Program (COMRAP) isfunded under the EC Food Facility. It intends to reverse the negative phenomena highlighted above and bridge the gap between emergency aid and medium to long term development through its three objectives given below:
- To encourage food producers to increase supply;
- To deal directly with the effects of volatile food prices on local populations;
- To increase food production capacity and improve the way agriculture is managed in the longer term.
In light of the foregoing, the COMESA Regional Agriculture Inputs Programme, (COMRAP) is designed to respond to the rising food prices phenomenon by increasing agricultural productivity through enhanced access to three intertwined factors, finance, input supply and seed quality and availability. The specific program interventions include:
- Improved Financial Services, through capacity building at banks and promoting the development of a weather indexed insurance system for smallholders;
- Strengthening the agro-dealer network, and the supply of agro inputs to smallholders by capacity building, accreditation of dealers, improving services, marketing smallholder outputs;
- Harmonisation of Seed Regulations and Standards, and improvements in the quality and availability of seeds.
Rapid implementation by experienced regional organisations and long term sustainability will be ensured by working in close collaboration with national governments, strongly established regional and national Farmer Associations, regional and international development organisations, sub-regional and international research centres, national research institutions and extension, international and national insurance companies, and regional and national banks. Sustainability is further enhanced through the capacitation and strengthening of essential agricultural input services and institutions. This integrated approach will enable the programme to contribute to improving rural food security and livelihoods in the region particularly for women, the elderly and HIV/AIDS affected households through improved and sustained access to agro-inputs in the COMESA region.