Maintaining and enhancing Crop Production offers the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region opportunities for accelerated economic growth, food security and increased trade, and has the benefit of strong linkages with other sectors of the economy. To realise its full potential, the Crop Production Sector requires improvements in the following areas:
- Access to new farming technologies and inputs (seeds, fertilisers, agrochemicals, etc.);
- Marketing infrastructure and information;
- Harmonised policy and strategy; and
- Capacity for coordination.
Furthermore, measures to mitigate the effects of recurring, serious, and often multi-year droughts must be implemented. These identified obstacles offer intervention hotspots for the purpose of attaining regional Food Security.
The Crop Development Unit of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR) Directorate is charged with promoting the production and protection of crops within the SADC region. Currently, approximately 25 % of the Southern African Region is used for arable crops, but only 5 % is under cultivation. The Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan identifies key areas of production that could be enhanced, including agricultural intensification through expansion of the area under cultivation, irrigation, mechanisation, sustainable use of fertilisers, and better seed quality and distribution.
Seed and Seed Security
Seed Security is a precursor to Food Security because availability and quality of seed set the limits to crop production and productivity. To assist in these aims, the Crop Development Unit of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate manages programs such as the SADC Seed Security Network (SSSN), which seeks to improve access and availability of high quality seed in the Southern African region. Its primary goals are to improve food security through increased seed security, and to increase disaster preparedness. Historically, weaknesses in SADC Region seed systems have led to inadequate distribution of quality seed, especially to small-scale farming operations, adversely affecting Food Security. A major achievement of the Seed Security Network has been the development of the SADC common systems for seed variety release, including sanitary and phyto-sanitary seed certification. Certification protects importing nations from bacterial contamination and pests.
Recurring natural disasters such as droughts, floods, cyclones and civil conflicts have complicated seed security efforts. Furthermore, import and export of seeds between Member States has been complicated by legislative barriers. The fragmented nature of seed legislation is a concern SADC is attempting to address through its interventions. Harmonised seed legislation between the Member States will greatly improve seed and food security in the region.
The Seed Security Network focuses particularly on the needs of resource-poor, small-scale farming efforts. Some specific goals of the network include:
- Harmonisation of seed regulations and policies to improve seed movement and trade;
- Dissemination of seed information;
- Determination of training needs and providing capacity building through training; and
- Establishment of effective procedures for seed interventions in the case of disasters.
Plant genetic resources
Working in close collaboration with the SADC Seed Security Network, the SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre and its national counterparts maintain plant genetic resources for long term and immediate use, with the following goals:
- Conserve and guarantee crop and wild plant resources;
- Document plant genetic resources;
- Ensure their efficient and sustainable use;
- Train personnel and coordinate regional activities; and
- Provide for the exchange of information, including scientific, cultural and traditional and indigenous knowledge.
The SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre addresses some of these goals through the following interventions:
- Plant Genetic Resources inventories;
- In-situ on-farm conservation; and
- Ex-situ conservation at SADC and national Plant Genetic Resources Centres.