Africa-Press – Eritrea. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is empowering its regulatory services to ensure the quality and safety of agricultural products and resources by extending its inspection services across different parts of the country.
The Regulatory Services Department (RSD) of the Ministry which was established in 2003 with a broad objective to regulate the agricultural sector has a vision of “Creating a robust regulatory body with strong enforcement powers to achieve its stated mission”. The mission of the department is “Enforcement of regulatory instruments and standards for ensuring animal and plant health, safety and quality of agricultural products, agricultural inputs (seeds, agrochemicals) and ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources”.
According to Mr. Tekleab Misghina, Director General of the RSD, one of the core functions of the department is ensuring food and feed safety and quality of agricultural products in farms and processing plants, both for local and export markets. Another important function is putting in place proper phytosanitary and zoo-sanitary measures. This is done to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases coming into our country associated with animals and plants and their products, Mr. Tekleab added.
The department provides the necessary health certificates for exporting animals and plants and their products. Necessary control and inspection services for seed multiplication activities with the aim to finally issue seed certification are also among the important functions of the RSD. Another important duty is ensuring that agrochemicals (pesticides, fertilizers, animal drugs, and vaccines) have the desired safety and quality standards. Provision of active inspection and control services to ensure sustainable use and management of forestry and wildlife resources; as well as regulating irrigation water and agricultural land are major tasks and mandates of the department.
Mr. Tekleab Misghina, when discussing the structure of the department, stated that the RSD has three divisions namely Animal Resources Regulatory Division (ARRD), Plant Resources Regulatory Division (PRRD), and Natural Resources Regulatory Division (NRRD). There are also Regional Inspectorate offices in all Zobas which provide regulatory and control services on animal resources, plant resources, and natural resources. Moreover, supporting units which include Administration and Finance Unit and Planning and Statistics Unit do exist.
“What is the legal basis for RSD to conduct control and inspection activities (Legislative frameworks, guidelines)?” was part of the questions presented by the Public Relations Division of the MoA to Mr. Tekleab Misghina.
He stated that it is not easy to enforce any control and inspection services unless supported by legal provisions. Hence, the following legal documents are the basis for taking any control measures during inspection: Proclamation No 155/2006: The Forestry and Wildlife Conservation and Development Proclamation; Legal Notice No 111/2006: Regulation for the Issuance of Forestry Permits; Legal Notice 112/2006: Regulation for the Issuance of Wildlife Permits: The Plant Quarantine Proclamation: No 156/2006; Legal Notice 113/2006: Regulations to Determine the Requirements and Standards for Milk and Milk Products Processing plants; Legal Notice 114/2006; Regulations for the Importation, Handling, Use, Storage and Disposal of Pesticides.
Moreover, legal documents on Animal Heath Proclamation; Seed Proclamation; Pesticide Proclamation; National CITES Legislation were finalized and submitted to the concerned bodies for enactment and implementation, Mr. Tekleab added.
According to him, the RSD has about 80 technical personnel with academic qualifications ranging from certificates to Master’s levels. It should be underlined that control and inspection services require a higher level of knowledge and expertise, which is lacking now, not only in quality but also in quantity.
According to reports, since its establishment, the RSD has registered considerable achievements, despite many challenges and obstacles. Following are some of the major achievements: a number of legal provisions have been enacted, while others are in the process of enactment; very close inspection and control measures were carried out on milk and milk products; awareness of the public on the risks of quarantine pests and diseases associated with the importation of animals and plants and their products have increased substantially. Moreover, considerable efforts were made to establish diagnostic quarantine stations in four quarantine stations namely Tesseney, Asmara International Airport, Massawa, and Assseb Ports. The establishment of regional inspectorate offices in Zobas and the efforts being made to strengthen them is indeed considerable.
Improved crop varieties, which are under seed multiplication, are regularly inspected and finally supervised by the National Variety Release Committee which is chaired by the RSD. The department, subsequently, gives seed certification for quality seeds.
Over the years, the department played a critical role in disposing of 363 tons of obsolete pesticides (which were accumulated since early Ethiopian colonial times) to the UK through the high incineration method. Similarly, over 32 tons of obsolete animal drugs and vaccines were disposed of locally in an environment-friendly way. All these endeavors have resulted in enhancing a safer environment.
Furthermore, the RSD, on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, successfully spearheaded the establishment of a National Database on Fauna and Flora, in collaboration with the concerned institutions which include the Ministry of Land, Water and Environment, Ministry of Marine Resources, College of Science and Hamelmalo Agricultural College; National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI-MoA), the Agricultural Strategic Information Division (MoA) and other private entities such as Ram Farm.
Finally, Mr. Tekleab Misghina mentioned technical and institutional capacities need to be strengthened to conduct more effective control measures and inspection services.3
Summary of Regional Inspectorate Activities
Generally, the regional inspectorate offices are the implementers of most of the regulatory functions of the department. For instance, the Gash-Barka Regional Inspectorate is mandated to regulate agricultural activities in the region and controls quarantine activities at the border station at Tesseney. Inspection of seed multiplication activities (mainly sorghum and pearl millet); the use and management of pesticides, particularly the excessive use of pesticides on tomato fields are also among the major functions of the inspectorate. It also monitors the illegal killing of elephants and inspection services at slaughterhouses.
Other regional inspectorates also carry out similar but sometimes area-specific activities. However, most of their functions include inspection of animal and plant products processing plants, an inspection of seed multiplication activities (wheat, sorghum, potato, etc); inspection at slaughterhouses and at animal feed processing plants. They also monitor the use and management of pesticides and conduct an environmental impact assessment of agricultural development projects.
Plant Resources Regulatory Activities
Mr. Said Nuredin is the Director of the Plant Resources Regulatory Division at the RSD. He described that the division’s main tasks are providing seed inspection, plant and plant products inspection, plant quarantine and phytosanitary measures; and also agrochemical inspection services.
Seed Inspection Services
When it comes to the details of the services, Seed inspection services, based on regulatory standards and guidelines, make sure that seeds distributed to farmers have the desired quality and safety standards, and strengthen seed certification schemes in the country.
Plant and Plant Products Inspection Services
The Plant and plant products inspection unit’s major tasks include ensuring plant products harvested from farms as well as plant products processed in processing plants fulfill the desired national safety standards. The unit in charge of these services monitors horticultural farms with the aim of inspecting unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of pesticides. It also conducts inspections at plant product processing plants to secure hygienic production processes and the safety of products. It also promotes awareness among farmers and food processors on the importance of hygiene and sanitation on farms, storage, handling, and food processing activities.
With regard to these activities, Mr. Said outlined that the following major achievements were registered: the practice of excessive use of pesticides to control pest infestation in tomato farms in Gash Barak (Akurdet and Dighe areas) has decreased to a significant level.
Plant products processing facilities located in many places have been effectively monitored to uphold the production of safe and hygienic products. Subsequently, many farmers and plant product processors have improved their knowledge and understanding of the importance of hygiene and sanitation.
Plant Quarantine and Phyto-sanitary Unit
Plant quarantine and phytosanitary services are also among the major pillars of the division, and it focuses on providing the necessary inspection and control services. This includes laboratory diagnostic tests, at entry points with the aim of preventing the introduction of exotic pests into the country and issuing import permits for plants and plant products after making the necessary pest risk analysis. It also conducts the required inspection services for plants destined for export with the aim of providing phytosanitary certificates.
Moreover, based on the Plant Quarantine Proclamation No156/2006 and other operational guidelines and manuals; plant quarantine stations were established at critical border controls, namely at Asmara International Airport, Tesseney, Massawa, and Asseb Ports. Efforts are underway to strengthen them and establish diagnostic laboratory facilities. These border control activities are put in place to prevent the introduction of quarantine pests to and from the country. Reports from the division also indicate, although not fully completed, a database of quarantine pests for Eritrea is under preparation.
According to Mr. Said, agro-chemical inspection services are also carried out by the division to ascertain the safety and quality of agrochemicals, with an emphasis on pesticides. In this area, the unit which is responsible to execute the services provides guidance and advice to farmers on the proper use and management of pesticides; issues pesticide import permits in accordance with a nationally authorized list of pesticides. It also monitors pesticide stocks and takes appropriate measures for safeguarding and disposal of obsolete pesticides and their containers.
It is to be noted that this unit has been involved in the desert locust campaigns to promote human and environmental safety by all means. The establishment of a car wash facility in Gadem Halib, Northern Red Sea Region, is among the major achievements.
Animal Resources Regulatory Services
Animal Resources Regulatory Division (ARRD) is one of the RSD Divisions and is organized in four units namely; the Animal and Animal Products Inspection Unit; Animal Quarantine Inspection Unit; Animal Feed Inspection Unit as well as the Animal Drug and Biologics Inspection Unit.
Animal and Animal Products Inspection Services
According to Mr. Tesfahiwet Ghebretnsae, Director of the ARRD, Animal and Animal Products Inspection Unit was established to provide effective control and inspection services to ensure that animals and animal products fulfill the desired national and international health and safety standards. For that matter, the unit inspects slaughterhouses for ensuring the health of animals before slaughter and the safety of meat as well as dairy and meat products processing plants.
Mr. Tesfahiwet stated that thanks to encouragements made by the MoA in general and the RSD in particular, the number of milk products processing plans and particularly that of yogurt has significantly increased in number in the past 13 years. According to him, until 2009 yogurt used to be imported from Yemen but then after, 18 processing plants emerged to process safe milk products mainly yogurt. In addition, meat processing plants, including pork meat, are regularly inspected so that the public gets safe meat in the market.
Animal Quarantine Inspection Services
Preventing the introduction of exotic and transboundary diseases (TAD’s) entering the country with imported animal and animal products is a function of the Animal Quarantine Inspection Unit. The unit, after making the required inspection, issues animal health certificates for export animals and animal products. It also provides the necessary inspection and control services, including laboratory diagnostic tests, at entry points with the aim of preventing the introduction of exotic diseases into the country. Provision of import permits for animal and animal products is also an important part of the Division’s tasks, according to Mr. Tesfahiwet. For this reason, animal quarantine stations were established at critical border areas.
Animal Feed Inspection Services
Securing feed produced by feed processing plants to have the desired safety and quality standards is important to human and animal health. Hence, the RSD, through its Animal Feed Inspection Unit, visits animal feed processing plants and makes sure that imported animal feed fulfills the necessary safety and quality requirements. The unit also closely monitors feed processing plants to check that infrastructure facilities are maintained and processing activities and storage facilities are hygienic.
Veterinary Drug and Biologics Inspection Services
Even though veterinary drugs and biologics are important to the well-being of animals, they can also be dangerous if not properly handled. Hence, through its veterinary drugs and biologics inspection unit, the RSD inspects to validate the safety and quality of animal drugs and vaccines. In addition to providing guidance and advice to farmers on the proper use and management of animal drugs, the unit renders activities like the provision of import permits, monitoring of stocks, and safeguarding and disposal of obsolete animal drugs and vaccines.
For instance, after making the necessary inventory of stocks nationally, 29 tons of obsolete animal drugs and about 4 tons of obsolete vaccines were disposed of locally in an environmentally friendly way.
Natural Resources Regulatory Services
According to Mr. Yacob Yohannes, Director of the Natural Resources Regulatory Division (NRRD), the department is also involved in forestry and wildlife inspection, regulating irrigation water, and inspection of agricultural land.
Forestry and wildlife Inspection Services
The forestry and wildlife inspection unit works to make sure proper conservation of forest and wildlife resources for sustainable utilization and increased biodiversity. Its major activities include conducting forest inventory and determining allowable utilization; designing forest utilization licensing mechanisms and issuing permits for movements. It also participates in the establishment of wildlife-protected areas; prepares fauna and flora species database of Eritrea, and also controls illegal killing of wildlife species.
Irrigation water Regulatory Services
Irrigation Water Regulatory unit, based on regulatory standards and guidelines, monitors and regulates agricultural water in terms of quality and use efficiency, to mitigate negative environmental impact and improve productivity. To execute this major task, the unit regularly gets involved in environmental impact assessment of irrigation projects; assessment and review of irrigation farms and related structures (dams, diversions, wells, and irrigation infrastructures); ensuring the sustainable use of groundwater to trace and avoid pollutants, among others.
Agricultural Land Inspection Services
According to Mr. Yacob, the Agricultural Land Inspection unit is yet another unit at the NRRD which is mandated to monitor and regulate agricultural land and follow up their enforcement and implementation. To fully render its task, the unit develops and reviews legislation, regulations, standards, and guidelines pertinent to agricultural land use, and soil, and water conservation practices. It also plays its role in environmental impact assessments on agricultural development projects and monitoring; and evaluation of agricultural land use practices, among others.