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Working together to boost regional trade and food security, 35 African bio-security champions from ten Central and East African countries met on September 5-9, 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya for the third Africa Plant Bio-security Network workshop.

The Network brings African bio-security professionals from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe together to share information, provide ongoing mentoring, and boost training and outreach. The aim is to improve national and regional plant bio-security, lifting crop yields and enabling safe trade.

Dr Haimanot Abebe Alage, from Ethiopia, is a Senior Expert in the Plant Pest Risk Analysis and Surveillance Case Team of Ethiopia’s Plant Health Regulatory Directorate in the Ministry of Agriculture. When the network began, she said, “There are many challenges. There is a lack of trained manpower. I wish to learn about the practical aspects to bio-security.”

Regional trade formed an important part of the workshop. Champions developed new skills in meeting international standards, negotiation of import conditions and understanding the bio-security aspects of bulk grain imports. Post-entry quarantine, for example, is an important part of border security that can help maintain trade while keeping out pests and diseases of concern.

The Network workshop ran over five days, beginning with a focus on pest and disease diagnostics, especially the use of new molecular techniques that promise faster and more accurate identification.

The workshop also included field trips to the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), and to Biosciences East and Central Africa (BECA).