On September 29th, Cheryl Anderson, Regional Director of USAID/East Africa, announced a three-year extension of a project that will provide additional planned $6 million for regional agricultural research and technology transfer under an agreement with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).
ASARECA, a consortium of public, private, and civil society partners in ten countries, supports the mobilization of new plant varieties, technologies and regionally proven management practices to improve productivity and increase access to markets for smallholder farmers.
Among the ongoing activities, the grant to ASARECA supports development of resistant varieties of plants as well as implementation of farming practices that will help smallholder farmers deal with the effects of three diseases of basic staple crops -- the Mosaic and Brown Streak Viruses of Cassava and Banana Bacterial Wilt -- that are threatening the food security of millions of households dependent on these crops for food and cash income. ASARECA is pulling together expertise from national and international research institutes, NGOs, extension services, and other partners to bring solutions directly to farmers. Looking ahead, ASARECA supports improved breeding, biotechnology and tissue culture systems to be ready for emerging challenges.
ASARECA is active in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is supported by its members and by a group of development partners coordinated by USAID, including the World Bank, DFID (UK), the European Union, CIDA and IDRC (Canada), the African Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and SIDA (Sweden). ASARECA works closely with the Common Market for Eastern and Central Africa (COMESA) to coordinate the implementation of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), and to increase the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers.
ASARECA uses the current and additional funding to work with policy analysts, national governments and regulatory agencies to harmonize policies and regulations. Key elements include:
- Taking steps to open up regional markets to ensure improved seed varieties get to farmers.
- Collaborating with COMESA to harmonize biosafety policies and regulations so new biotechnologies will pass through comparable procedures in each country, thus providing clear and rigorous health and environmental safeguards without creating new barriers to regional trade.
- Developing technology information and uptake programs that will make technologies and knowledge available to smallholder farmers throughout the region. Special attention will be paid to reaching chronically food-insecure rural households to improve their productivity and increase their access to markets.