Ray Maota Through the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, countries on the continent committed to allocating at least 10% of their national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development within five years. (Image: International Land Coalition) Mompati Merafhe, vice-president of SADC, urged the centre to put both regional and international resources to good use and to launch new technologies that would enhance the productivity of small-scale and commercial farming operations. (Image: Wikipedia) MEDIA CONTACTS • Southern African Development Community +267 395 1863 RELATED ARTICLES • SA allocates R500m for black farmers • Quality inputs for Kenya’s farmers • First World Forestry Congress for South Africa • R104m leg-up for Zim cotton farmersFood security efforts in Southern Africa have been boosted by the launch of a new organisation focusing on agricultural research and innovation.The Centre for the Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA) opened in mid-July 2011 in Botswana.An initiative of Southern African Development Community (SADC), the centre is based at the Ministry of Agriculture in the nation’s capital city, Gaborone.The SADC aims to facilitate the economic integration of all Southern African countries and improve living standards, social justice and sustainable growth throughout the region.Christian de Graaff, Botswana’s minister of agriculture, said at the launch: “The issue of food security is particularly challenging to our region because despite the various challenges we have, the region is endowed with reasonable resources that, if put to good use, can change the situation.“Food security is undeniably one of the major challenges that the world has to deal with. Food insecurity is more pronounced in our continent Africa and particularly prone in our region, hence it is a priority for all of us.”Research and innovationResearch, technology and innovation have been identified as key ways to achieve food security for SADC member states and the continent as a whole.The centre will help facilitate joint regional research programmes, the sharing of research information and resources, while also strengthening partnership ties.The research and development centre is hoping to help SADC countries reach their Millennium Development Goals through the coordination of the SADC’s Multi-country Agriculture Productivity Programme.It will also address challenges the SADC countries face in trying to feed over 250-million people.Mompati Merafhe, vice-president of SADC said: “To keep pace with population growth and other life demands, research and technology development must remain focused and ahead of time. Africa must position herself to compete with the best in the global market.“The theme for this meeting is Research and Development: Key to Food Security. I find the theme both timely and appropriate.”Merafhe urged the centre to put both regional and international resources to good use and to launch new technologies that would enhance the productivity of small-scale and commercial farming operations.Agriculture vital for food securityHeads of states on the continent endorsed the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa in July 2003.Through this declaration, African states committed to allocating at least 10% of their national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development within five years.Merafhe said: “We cannot afford to ignore the fact that agriculture is the backbone of most SADC states as about 80% of our people depend on the sector for food, employment and income.”Botswana has identified and funded agricultural programmes involving backyard gardening and bee-keeping to eradicate poverty in the country.Merafhe added that African countries needed to have faith in their scientists, who have an abundance of traditional knowledge, and use this to drive agriculture on the continent so that it could compete with the rest of the world.Rural development programmeAs part of its poverty reduction plan, South Africa initiated the R54-million comprehensive rural development programme in Louis Trichardt, in the Limpopo province, in 2010.The programme, funded by the National Lotteries Board, is a partnership between the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform; the NGO Resource Africa and the Matsila Community Development Trust.Zwelivelile Mandela, a portfolio member of parliament for rural development and land reform, said at the launch of the programme: “This government is conscious that our people in rural areas face the harshest conditions of poverty, food insecurity and lack of access to basic services on an almost daily basis. Women, in particular, who form the majority of residents in rural areas, face the burden of poverty even more.”Mandela aded that the government will prioritise rural development across the country over the next five years.