WINDHOEK – The Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) is spreading its wings. FANRPAN board chairperson Sindiso Ngwenya announced that what used to be a regional organisation is now going continental.
“The board has made a historic decision that FANRPAN covers the whole of Africa including the Caribbean,” said Ngwenya, who is also the secretary-general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
The network presently has a presence in 14 countries in Southern Africa, the latest to join being the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was welcomed into the network during the 2010 FANRPAN Annual High Level Regional Food Security Policy Dialogue in Windhoek, Namibia.
In each country, government representatives, researchers, NGOs, farmers and agribusiness come together to form a node, or point of action and coordination, in the network, whose mission is to provide evidence in support of sound policy on food, agriculture and natural resources issues
Ngwenya acknowledged that sustaining the different nodes is a challenge because of the lack of a single funding mechanism. In some countries, FANRPAN’s activity is funded the participating partners in their countries, while others depend on outside support.
The FANRPAN board chair discouraged the dependency of getting funding from outside sources by nodes arguing that the donors might not be in line with their priorities.
“It’s better to partner with local companies to drive the agenda of agriculture and food security,” said Ngwenya.
The 200 delegates at the Windhoek Dialogue, coming from Africa and beyond, recommended that FANRPAN should remain focused on its core functions and strengths as it expands its reach.
This decision comes a few days after the COMESA heads of state summit in Swaziland endorsed a tripartite trade agreement between the Southern African Development Community (SADC), COMESA and the East African Community (EAC).
According to Ngwenya, who is also COMESA secretary general, the COMESA, EAC and SADC Grand Free Trade Area will widen not only the economic scope of these three regional blocks but will also improve their infrastructure.
“We’ve realised that businesspeople don’t trade in regional blocks but in economic spaces,” Ngwenya told journalists in Namibia.
A secretariat to coordinate the activities of this newly formed structure will be established.
Among its features will be an Agriculture and Food Security Sub-committee, which will enable the trade of agriculture products.
“It’s only through trade that we can put money on people’s pockets,” he said.