21 October 2015 РOn 14-16 October, CABI held its regional consultation meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, where it agreed and announced its priorities for Africa. More than 60 delegates from 16 African CABI member countries, together with CABI staff, partner organizations and potential member countries discussed priorities such as tackling the impact of invasive species on the livelihoods of the rural poor, including smallholder farmers. Invasive species are animals, insects, plants and diseases that are out of control and that damage agriculture and the environment. CABI and the Zambian government also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a new Southern Africa centre in Lusaka, Zambia, strengthening the organization’s presence in the region.

Invasive species affect the food security and incomes of around 26 million farming and pastoralist families in East Africa alone. In Zambia, invasive plants like the spiny shrub Mimosa pigra ¬Ė commonly known as giant sensitive plant ¬Ė also affect farming communities. Mimosa pigra has invaded the floodplain of the Kafue River in Zambia reducing biodiversity, conservation efforts and use of the floodplain for fisheries, crop and livestock production. According to scientist Griffin Shanungu from the Zambia Wildlife Authority, this plant has spread from two hectares in the 1980s to more than 3,000 hectares, and is still spreading.

To strengthen cooperation and move towards the promotion of sustainable agriculture and the environment in Southern Africa, CABI signed a MoU with the Zambian government to open a sub-regional centre in Lusaka covering the Southern African region. The centre will bring CABI’s services closer to the people who need them, including smallholder farming communities and those with local knowledge tackling problems in agriculture and the environment.

CABI has a regional office in Kenya and a sub-regional centre in Ghana, covering West Africa. The establishment of this third office in Africa is part of CABI’s commitment to addressing food security and delivering impactful projects in the region. Priority areas and issues identified and agreed upon at the consultation included: trade and market access; knowledge management, communication and use; plant and animal health; invasive species management; biodiversity and ecosystem management; and nutrition sensitive and climate smart agriculture. Representatives commented how they were impressed with CABI’s progress, addressing their needs and priorities, and engaging them in a way that gave them ownership of the organization.

These triennial consultation meetings have become an important activity for CABI, which is driven by the priorities of its 48 member countries. The meetings give CABI members an opportunity to influence the organization’s strategic plans and for CABI to listen to and engage directly with its members. This particular consultation is the first of three that will take place between 2015 and 2016. In November 2015, a second regional consultation will be held in Malaysia for the Asia-Pacific region, and in February 2016, a third will be held in Costa Rica for the Americas and Caribbean. The outcomes of these meetings will be fed into CABI’s Review Conference, scheduled for July 2016, helping to guide the organization’s overall priorities and strategy for the coming years.

Zambian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Harry Kalaba, commented: ¬ďCABI has been working to improve people¬ís lives worldwide, by solving problems in agriculture and the environment and also engages in regional consultations to take stock and plan for the future. Government, therefore, firmly believes that through the hosting of this organization in Zambia more strategies to combat the current challenges that confront us in the region will be developed. With the MoU signed and the office established here in Lusaka, CABI will be better able to respond to these challenges in collaboration with its local partners and donors. This is a welcome move not only for Zambia but for all CABI¬ís member countries in Southern Africa. I look forward to furthering the partnership between CABI and the Southern African countries.¬Ē

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Julius J. Shawa, said: ¬ďCABI is well-positioned to prioritize the development activities and resources to address some of the challenges affecting people in its member countries and the world today. Challenges such as disease identification, crop protection and animal health are some of the issues that require attention by CABI member countries. ¬Ē He continued, ¬ďZambia fully supports any initiatives that are aimed at revolutionising agriculture. We want to make the agricultural sector the major contributor to the country¬ís overall economic growth because we do realise that 80% of Zambia¬ís population depends on agriculture related livelihoods.¬Ē

CABI CEO, Dr Trevor Nicholls, commented: ¬ďOur meeting in Zambia marks an exciting time for CABI. The signing of the MoU is another step in our journey to extending our presence in Africa. The new centre will help us work more closely with our partners in Southern Africa and have a permanent presence on the ground there. The triennial regional consultation is an important event for CABI and its member countries. It gives us an opportunity, working together, to update our plans for tackling some of the key issues that impact food security, like crop and plant health, and invasive species management, using scientific knowledge and partnerships ¬Ė themes that are central to this meeting.¬Ē

CABI¬ís Executive Director for International Development, Dr Dennis Rangi, said: ¬ďPlantwise and indeed our other programmes like the Soil Health Programme have taught us the real power of development when people are given a chance to participate. There is nobility and capacity in people, especially the farmers themselves. Talking their language and recognizing them as partners in development, makes a huge difference in achieving the desired impact. CABI wishes to strengthen its presence as a development partner in this region and thus bring our technical skills closer to the recipients.¬Ē Dr Rangi later went on to open a focus session on invasive species ¬Ė the livelihoods threat facing Africa.

Photo: More than 60 delegates from 16 African CABI member countries, together with CABI staff, partner organizations and potential member countries meet at CABI’s regional consultation in Zambia

For all our latest news, click here.