By Freddy Mambara

Harare – Four SADC members – though the Centre for Co-ordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) – are mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on food and nutrition security via climate-smart technologies.

CCARDESA team leader Mr Bartholomew Chataika told The Southern Times the project was funded to the tune of US$215,000 through a European Union grant, and it covered eSwatini, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“The Southern African Development Community recorded a total of 44,8 million  food  insecure  people  during  the  2019/2020  agriculture  season,  an  increase  of  3,6 million people compared to the previous season, as a result of successive droughts. The  region  also  experienced  relatively  high  cases  of  malnutrition,  with  a  number  of  member states reporting stunting rates of above 30 percent whilst obesity rates were above 10 percent of the population,” Mr Chataika said in an interview this week.

“The closure of borders and lockdowns imposed by most countries since the beginning of 2020 to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disrupted the production and chain of food supply, resulting in increased levels of food insecurity and malnutrition across the SADC region.

“To  this  end,  SADC  through  the  Global  Climate  Change  Alliance  Plus  (GCCA+)  programme,  in  collaboration  with  CCARDESA,  has embarked  on  a  project  aimed  at  mitigating  the  impact  of  COVID-19  on  food  and  nutrition  security  for  farming  households using climate-smart agricultural technologies.

“The  project  aims  to  improve  the  availability  and  access  to  high-value  nutritious  horticultural produce in food-insecure communities that have been severely impacted by COVID-19 in eSwatini, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It places more emphasis towards improving productivity of nutritious horticultural crops for consumption but will extend support towards marketing of the surplus,” he said.

Mr Chataika added: “Partners  will  be  identified  to  train  beneficiary  communities  in  agro-processing  of horticulture;  post-harvest  handling  and  distribution;  and  market  access  to  sell  their surplus produce. Beneficiaries will also be trained on the use and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure and installation of vegetable storage facilities using low-cost and locally available materials.”

He said the entire SADC region would benefit from a spill-over effect.

CCARDESA, Mr Chataika said, would use diverse channels to disseminate climate-smart knowledge and products.

In Zimbabwe, CCARDESA identified the Grow A Tree Foundation as its implementing partner, said the non-governmental organisation’s communications director Mr Musuna.

SADC member states established CCARDESA in 2010 to harmonise implementation of agricultural research and development across the region.

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