The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has embarked on a mission to establish regional horticulture innovation lab centres in Eastern, Western and Southern Africa.

Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), COMESA’s specialized agency in collaboration with AGRISMART Africa and Rutger University (USA) will roll-out the centres.

George Magai, Director Trade and Markets at COMESA-ACTESA said the the regional centres are to conduct trainings, introduce and demonstrate technologies, which will increase organic agriculture.

“This will be accomplished through conducting applied research from production through postharvest handling, product development to reduce poverty, improve health,” said Magai.

He said emphasis will be placed on nutrition and environmental and economic sustainability for smallholder farmers especially youth and women through profitable current horticultural methods, using eco-friendly agriculture inputs which will replace hazardous chemical agents to farm friendly microbes.

“Magai said the eco-friendly bio-organic solutions increase an appreciable enhancement in healthy soil bacteria available for plant nutrient conversion.”

According to Magai, smallholder agriculture continues to play a key role in African agriculture.

He said in East Africa, countries have agriculture-based economies, where smallholder farming accounts for about 75 percent of agricultural production and over 75 percent of employment.

Magai bemoaned that contributions of smallholder farming, and agriculture in general, have remained limited.

“Growth has been driven by services, in particular trade,” Magai said highlighting that there is a critical need to improve intra-regional trade in the COMESA region.

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