The vision for the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) is to attain sustainable agricultural growth and socio-economic development in the SADC region. The organisation’s contribution to the attainment of food and nutrition security is mainly through supporting the generation and dissemination of agricultural research technologies, innovations and management practices. CCARDESA also provides science-based evidence from the research work so that policy makers can use the outputs of research to develop evidence-based policies. With these interventions, it is possible to attain food and nutrition security.
CCARDESA’s Acting Executive Director, Simon Mwale, is an agricultural expert with 30 years’ experience working in the Southern African region. “My career has taken me through four different institutions. I started off working in the Civil Service in the Ministry of Agriculture as a Seeds Officer at Mt Makulu Research Station in Zambia. After 6 years of service, I moved to the University of Zambia in 1994 where I worked as a Lecturer in the School of Agricultural Sciences until 2006.” As his career soared, Mwale later joined SADC as Senior Programme Manager for Crop Development. He served in this position until February, 2013 when he joined CCARDESA as Programmes and Grants Manager. Since 2016, he has occupied the position of Executive Director in an acting capacity.
According to Mwale, his role is to provide leadership to the organization and take through a progression path that leads to tangible benefits and impacts to the people in the SADC region, particularly those involved in the different commodity value chains in the countries. As a regional organization, Mwale explained that CCARDESA’s operational model is based on forging partnerships with key stakeholders in Member States and working closely with them to deliver on the mandate. In this regard, CCARDESA observes the principle of subsidiarity, which provides for actions to be taken at the most appropriate level so that each partner organization does what it is best placed to do. Further to that, the organisation uses its position to interpret the SADC policies and strategies and develop actions that assist the SADC countries to meet their aspirations within the SADC frameworks that they have committed to. Overall, CCARDESA’s performance has been very good as measured by the projects and outputs thereof.
In collaboration with partners in the SADC countries, CCARDESA is continuously producing and introducing new products onto the agricultural market. These are in form of innovations and technologies. CCARDESA has produced more than 300 technologies and innovations in the past 5 years. Some of these are being used by the farmers. The best example is the release of several varieties of maize, cowpea, beans, pigeon pea and rice in Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi. Using the SADC Harmonised Seed Regulatory System, some of these varieties can be produced and marketed in any of the SADC countries.
Mwale further explained that, CCARDESA implements a number of projects which start and end at different times. Currently, the top three programmes are the Agricultural Productivity Programme for Southern Africa, the Agricultural Climate Change in Rural Areas project and the newly launched Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Ex-Pillar 4 (CAADPXP. There are also others that are either being developed or implemented.
“Operating environments of organizations are dynamic and we have experienced a number of changes at various levels. But my role is to study these changes and develop the appropriate management responses to ensure that the organization thrives as it faces these challenges. CCARDESA also approaches its operations with a forward-looking mind, which enables us to study the current trends and predict what is likely to happen in the future. In this way we keep ourselves prepared to face future challenges,” noted Mwale.
Good planning and optimum use of human and financial resources determine the success of the organsiation. CCARDESA has developed a new strategic plan which describes the path and priorities for the organization in the next 10 years. This strategy was developed in consultation with the stakeholders and development partners in the region. Mwale added that, “In Botswana we have projects that we are supporting and these have direct linkage to the farmers. The agri-business community in the region would benefit more by visiting our website (www.ccardesa.org) to utilize the knowledge hub of over 700 agricultural information products from all over SADC. We also have a very active social media accounts such as Facebook and D-group discussions. The best entry point for the agri-business community would be to contact our offices and ‘shop’ from our range of products.”
In terms of digital transformation, CCARDESA has already positioned itself for a big role in this field so that it becomes a key facilitator of digitalization and assisting the farming community to make use of digital and artificial intelligence to improve efficiency of agricultural activities and farming systems’ productivity. In this regard, the Strategic Plan of CCARDESA has prioritized this aspect because of the impact it has had in different sectors of economies and the potential available in agriculture. Therefore, CCARDESA has recently developed a regional project on digitization of the agricultural sector in the SADC region.
For Mwale, the use of digital technology and artificial intelligence are the leading pace setting trends. The opportunities are many in that the value chain activities can be turned to ‘e-format’. This aspect is within our strategic plan and the details will be outlined in the operational plan. We want cultural transformation to actively shape our future and position us at the front of the service provision excellence.,” said Mwale. In conclusion, Mwale said, “The benefits of research are either taken for granted or not appreciated at some levels. Development, new products, new practices and any physical structures that one sees or uses is a product of research. The crop varieties of sorghum grown in the Pandamatenga area, for example, are products of research. One can never make progress in food security or any other front without research.” ‘
More about the three CCARDESA projects in the coming weeks.