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New commodities, larger sharing platform mark birth of ECAAT

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Tanzania team engaging during the Arusha ECAAT plannning meeting

Eight commodities have received initial regional stakeholder acceptance to constitute the research landscape under the Eastern and Central Africa Agriculture Transformation Project (ECAAT). 

They include four commodities inherited from EAAPP Regional Centres for Excellence namely; cassava (Uganda), rice (Tanzania), dairy (Kenya), and wheat (Ethiopia). The newly introduced commodities include oil crops, poultry, beans, maize, and uniquely new research area—landhusbandry.

During a two-week-long planning meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, from October 30 to November 11, member countries developed criteria for validating the EAAP four commodities and selecting additional commodities.

Selection criteria

The criteria included strategic importance of the commodities in promoting nutrition, attracting the youth to invest in value chains, creating jobs, raising income, and promoting regional trade leading to market driven transformation. The choice also took into cognizance the strength of the commodity value chains to criss-cross multiple countries and the potential for regional import substitution among other factors.

What ECAAT commodities will prioritise

Dairy, cassava, wheat and rice passed the test as they were enjoined to the list as commodities for Regional Centres of Excellence (RECoEs) under EAAPP.  Their strategic roles in transformation were reviewed as follows:

Dairy

Currently under the Dairy RECoE, dairy is considered a high potential income generation and job creation commodity because of the long range of value addition products and processes it involves.

It was also noted that the region has both deficit and surplus areas for dairy products, which can be exploited through policy harmonization and free movement of goods across borders. It was agreed that the exchange of semen and embryo from areas of surplus to areas of need would be promoted under ECAAT.  ECAAT priorities under dairy will include disease, parasite and vector control, genetic improvement for enhanced productivity, feed resource development and management, feeds and product safety, processing and value addition, markets and marketing systems, dairy waste utilization and management.

Wheat

During EAAPP, Ethiopia was the wheat RECoE. In ECAAT, Kenya will provide leadership in wheat research, development and value chains, as Ethiopia may not be joining the league soonest. Wheat has a strong place in ECAAT because of the heavy cost that ECAAT countries suffer in wheat importation. The strategic place therefore is import substitution to service rising consumption of wheat and wheat products in urban settings.

Cassava

With Uganda providing leadership, cassava is better appreciated from the industrial point of view than from a food perspective. It is a high potential value addition commodity spanning industrial starch, flour, chips, ethanol, animal feeds and packaging materials.  Under ECAAT, the priority is to introduce and test high yielding genotype, disease resistant and market responsive cassava variety, agro-processing and value addition, good agronomic and post-harvest practices, cassava seed systems, early warning systems, bi-product utilization, germplasm conservation and mechanization.

Rice

Rice is strategic for its import substitution potential and its place in climate smart agriculture. The priorities for rice research include development of varieties that are resilient to biotic and abiotic stresses; investment in integrated crop management practices; post harvest management; value addition, product development options and marketing; integrated pest management; labor saving and gender responsive technologies; developing efficient early warning  systems; generation, adaption and scaling out of post-harvest mechanization technologies for enhancing quality and market value of rice; designing and determining efficient water utilization options for rice production, preservation options for fresh and processed rice products, among others.

The newly introduced commodities are: Beans, poultry, edible oil seeds and land husbandry.

Beans

This commodity was chosen to target the export markets and reap benefits associated with value addition for products like dry grain and canned pre-cooked beans. Beans are also a strategic export commodity within the region from areas of deficit to areas of surplus.

Poultry

Was chosen for its high import substitution potential considering high importation of poultry products into the region. The meeting considered the exploding demand for local free-range chicken as a critical element.

Edible oil seeds

This could have more than one commodity including sunflower, soybean, and groundnuts etc: The high volume of edible oil imports into the continent informed the choice.

Land husbandry

Although not considered a commodity, land husbandry made an important entry into the ECAAT commodity list because of the urgent need to tackle widespread erosion, declining soil fertility, and increasing land degradation. It was noted that land husbandry is critical for national and regional food and nutrition security, climate change and variability, and ultimately incomes from farming.

Rwanda, drawing from its unique experience in land husbandry, made a sound case for land husbandry to harness landscapes that are a challenge to agriculture. Under this research area, the priorities include mapping and modeling terracing based land husbandry practices for decision making; developing decision support tool for monitoring crop yield and forecast food security; undertaking socio-economic models for land use and management system.

Others are; mainstreaming efficient systems for management of rainfall, run-off and water use; investment in prediction tools on soil, landslides and nutrients losses; investment in climate smart integrated crop-livestock farming system; cost effective adaptive landscape mechanization machines for pre and post production.

Other commodities discussed included potato and banana; and cross-cutting issues such as climate smart agriculture, socio-economic aspects, mechanization, ICT and knowledge management.

Article by Ben Moses Ilakut-ASARECA communications unit

Date Published: 
Sunday, 19 November 2017