27 November 2017 – A $1.8 million partnership to improve agricultural productivity and sustainability in 10 African countries is starting to pay dividends thanks to the work of the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership (AAPBP).

The partnership, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and delivered by a consortium led by Australia’s Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (PBCRC), the Crawford Fund and CABI, has so far helped Tanzania access new markets for mangoes in Oman and Saudi Arabia, and helped Zambia sell grapes and bananas to markets in South Africa.

The agricultural sector employs over 60% of the labour force in Africa and accounts for 30% of the GDP in many countries. Plant biosecurity is a major global issue and invasive species are estimated to cause US$400 billion of damage a year.

The AAPBP sought to help tackle the impact of pests on crops by highlighting the relationship between plant biosecurity and food security to strengthen a case for increased investment from both the public and private sectors.

Additionally, it aimed to strengthen the agricultural value chains and helped overcome regulatory challenges while building capacity for plant biosecurity innovation in Australia and Africa.

The key goal of the AABPB was to implement a programme that would enhance the capacity of middle level managers and decision makers in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, to address, build and enhance national and regional biosecurity control capacity.

To facilitate this, the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Network was established, comprising 45 Fellows and led by 15 Senior Fellows. The aim of the network was to deliver technical biosecurity training, forge mentoring relationships between African Fellows and Australian experts, and support the development of country-based and regional biosecurity action.

Ephrance Tumuboine, Assistant Commissioner of the Phyosanitary and Quarantine Division, Uganda, said, ¬ďThe Fellowship has been a fantastic experience. I am confident I can make a real difference to agricultural trade in and from my country, as well as helping our farmers directly.¬Ē

Katemani Mdili, Senior Agricultural Officer, Tanzania¬ís Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, said, ¬ďFrom my experience in Australia, when I got back, I approached the Association of Mango Growers directly, and they have responded well. Fruit flies are everyone¬ís problem, so we also need a regional approach. We have now been able to negotiate market access for export mangoes to Oman and Saudi Arabia.¬Ē

Dr Roger Day, CABI¬ís Sanitary and Phytosanitary Coordinator and Project Leader (Africa), said, ¬ďPlant biosecurity is a core area of CABI¬ís work, and a high priority for our Member Countries in Africa. It was fitting that Australia, also a CABI Member Country, provided the financial support and world-class technical expertise that formed the basis for the initiative.¬†One of the project¬ís strengths was that the same group of people from ten countries took part in the whole series of activities, developing a common understanding of the issues as well as forming lasting relationships within Africa and between Africa and Australia.¬Ē

Bill Magee, Project Leader (Australia), PBCRC, said, ¬ďI recently visited Kenya to work on plant biosecurity issues associated with cut flower exports. The visit was hosted and organised by Mary Githinji, a Senior Fellow from KEPHIS who completed the AAPBP program. Mary¬ís experience gained in the programme has contributed to improved market access opportunities for cut flower exports from Kenya. Mary has also drafted new plant biosecurity legislation for Kenya, incorporating lessons learned during her placement in Australia.”

He continued, ¬ďThese are clear examples of the impact from the AAPBP program. It is hoped that ACIAR will now investigate the merits of applying the partnership¬ís training techniques to other regions, particularly the Pacific or Asia, where there are already identified needs in the broad area of plant biosecurity and market access capacity building. ACIAR is also providing one-year funding for a network coordinator in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to continue network activities including training and the sharing of expertise.¬Ē

Mellissa Wood, General Manager of ACIAR¬ís Global Program, said, ¬ďACIAR is proud to have partnered with the Plant Biosecurity CRC, CABI and the Crawford Fund by funding the strengthening of biosecurity capacity in Africa through the AAPBP. By facilitating the active partnering of the Australian and African biosecurity systems, the AAPBP has improved national and regional quarantine and plant protection capacity by creating a regional network of experts and building expertise in the public and private sectors.”

She went on to say, ¬ďIt is wonderful to see how highly valued the network is by key trade agencies in Africa (The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the African Union) and that these agencies are already utilising the AAPBP Fellows in their programmes and have committed to supporting the Network in the future.¬Ē

Thierry Mutombo Kalonji, COMESA¬ís Director of Industry and Agriculture, said, ¬ďPlant biosecurity is key to improving food security and regional trade throughout Africa. COMESA is committed to supporting the Network into the future and ensuring it continues to grow. By building strong relationships between countries and boosting agricultural trade, the Network clearly aligns with COMESA¬ís priorities and obligations and can make substantial contributions.¬Ē

For more information on the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership, see the CABI project page and the AAPBP project video.

For more information on PBCRC, click here.

For more information on ACIAR, click here.

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