AFRICA – The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the East African Community (EAC) have joined forces to establish the Comesa-EAC Horticultural Accelerator (CEHA).

This strategic initiative, headquartered in Lusaka, Zambia, is geared towards elevating intra-regional trade in fruits and vegetables.

The recently held inaugural stakeholders’ meeting in Arusha saw Mr. Appolo Owuor, the CEHA Regional Coordinator, unveiling the ambitious vision for the project.

The primary objectives of CEHA are multifaceted, with an overarching goal of achieving a trade value of USD 25 million for fruits and vegetables within the Comesa-EAC region by 2031.

 Furthermore, the initiative aims to catapult global exports from USD 416 million to an impressive USD 950 million by the same year.

Mr. Owuor emphasized the focus on specific crops, stating, “CEHA will spearhead the growth of the horticultural industry, beginning with avocado, onion, and Irish potato value chains. Studies indicate that these crops can generate a combined annual income of approximately USD 230 million for around 450,000 smallholder farmers.”

CEHA’s core objectives encompass harmonizing regulatory and standard policies within the Comesa-EAC region, coordinating the production chain for perishable crops, addressing challenges related to storage and transportation, and ensuring the availability of quality seeds.

Additionally, CEHA has set specific targets, including doubling the volume of preserved or processed fruits and vegetables by 2031, reducing farm-to-market time by 50%, lowering farm gate prices by 25%, creating 100,000 additional jobs along the value chains, halving post-harvest losses, increasing yields in fruits and vegetables, and promoting climate-smart practices for long-term profitability.

This initiative aligns seamlessly with the 2021–2031 Strategic Plan of the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (Actesa), a specialized agency of Comesa dedicated to integrating smallholder farmers into domestic, regional, and international markets.

Mr. Owuor underscored the collaborative nature of CEHA, stating, “Harmonizing policies and coordinating the production chain will create an enabling environment for the horticultural sector to thrive.”

“Our aim is not only to boost trade but also to uplift the livelihoods of smallholder farmers across the Comesa-EAC region.”

The CEHA initiative marks a significant stride towards regional economic integration, aligning with broader efforts to strengthen agricultural value chains and foster sustainable development.

As the horticultural industry takes center stage in this collaborative venture, the prospects for enhanced trade, increased employment, and improved livelihoods for smallholder farmers appear promising.

The journey towards a USD 25 million horticulture trade in the region by 2031 has commenced, backed by a comprehensive strategy and the joint commitment of Comesa and EAC.

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