The effect of COVID-19 on food and nutrition protection through climate-smart technologies is mitigated by four SADC members through the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA).
CCARDESA team leader Mr Bartholomew Chataika said 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 the 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 the implementation of agricultural research and development across the region.