Before South Sudan joined ASARECA, the 10 ASARECA countries covered an area of 8.5 million km2 with a total population of more than 280 million people, most of whom are rural dwellers pursuing agricultural livelihoods. Roughly one-third, 300 million hectares, of East and Central Africa's (ECA) total land area is devoted to agricultural use. Agriculture is therefore the most common occupation in ECA, and agriculture looms large in national economies throughout the region. Overall, agriculture accounts for 43% of the regional GDP.
Given that the bulk of the region's population resides in rural areas and depends on agriculture for income and sustenance, and given the low levels of productivity growth in the sector, hunger and malnutrition have deepened in ECA in recent years. The picture that emerges for ECA is, therefore, one of a region comprising countries progressively less able to meet the needs of their burgeoning populations. With agriculture looming so large in most national economies, sluggish growth in agricultural productivity has translated into sluggish overall growth and generally low per capita income levels.
High levels of agricultural importation-particularly of staples-appear to be only partially filling the consumption needs of a population lacking purchasing power, resulting in high levels of adult and child malnutrition and towering child mortality rates.
In such a situation, where the challenges faced by agriculture and agricultural research to change the situation and peoples livelihoods are immense, it is critical for national level efforts to also be complemented by sub- regional level collective action of countries in the sub-region.
The 10 member countries were motivated to establish ASARECA because they recognised
- The challenges and opportunities that must be addressed in order to improve agriculture in the sub-region
- The overriding need to promote their common welfare through collective action. That regional collaboration is indispensable for cost effective utilization of the available resources to produce technologies, knowledge and innovation systems that are sub-regional public goods that could be shared freely by all member countries
- That an intergovernmental association for agricultural research, extension and agricultural training and education in the sub-region, would complement the activities of the national, pan-African and international research institutions in delivering more responsive services to stakeholders in the sub-region.
Regional leader in agricultural research and development for improved livelihoods in Eastern and Central Africa
Enhanced sustainable productivity, value added and competitiveness of the sub- regional agricultural system
Enhanced utilization of agricultural research and development innovations in eastern and central Africa
Enhance regional collective action in agricultural research for development, extension and agricultural training and education to promote economic growth, fight poverty, eradicate hunger and enhance sustainable use of resources in Eastern and Central Africa
Central to ASARECA's vision and mission is the recognition of the value of regional collaboration among member countries to overcome poverty and hunger and foster the development aims of broad-based economic growth, poverty eradication and improved livelihood.
ASARECA sees improved delivery and impact of scientific knowledge, policy options and technologies as a powerful instrument to drive the sub-region towards meeting the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) which is the agricultural agenda of the African Union's, New Economic Partnership for African Development (AU/NEPAD).
Functions of ASARECA
A major objective of ASARECA is to develop policies and programs aimed at deepening co-operation in agricultural research and policy among its member countries for the mutual benefit of all the stakeholders in the agricultural sector. Stakeholders include farmer's associations; national and sub-regional associations that coordinate agricultural research, extension, training and education; associations of processors of agricultural products; associations of agricultural service providers; associations of agricultural businesses and related marketing agents; consumer associations; organised women groups and youth groups working in agriculture; non-governmental associations working in agricultural research and development; international agricultural research centres; universities and advanced research institutes ; investors and donors /development partners.
ASARECAs core functions are, at the sub-regional level, to:
- Develop a shared vision and goals
- Coordinate and mobilise resources for collective action on agricultural research, training, extension and education
- Empower end-users to meaningful participate in developing priorities, agricultural research, training, extension and education
- Contribute to the development and transfer of appropriate knowledge, methodologies, information and technologies
- Strengthen capacity for agricultural research extension and agricultural training and education for development
- Facilitate sharing of research outputs and benefits among the NARS
- Facilitate the efficient operation of the NARS at the national level
- Enhance the reputation of the sub-regional in regional and international fora
- Work towards the conservation of natural resources and the adoption of improved methods of agricultural production
- Work towards the adoption of sub-regional policies with respect to agricultural commodity arrangements
ASARECA has seven programmes. These are: (1) Staple Crops, (2) High Value Non-Staple Crops, (3) Livestock and Fisheries, (4) Agro-Biodiversity and Biotechnology, (5) Natural Resource Management and Biodiversity (6) Policy Analysis and Advocacy, and (7) Knowledge Management and Upscaling.
These programmes are implemented through partnership and collaboration of the NARS in member countries, the CGIAR, universities and other and advanced research centres. While ASARECA mobilises operational finances for sub-regionally planned programme, the partner NARS contribute their infrastructure, personnel and some funding towards the sustainable implementation of the programmes.