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Increasing safe and efficient trade of agriculture in East Africa

The East African Community (EAC) represents one of the fastest-growing regional economic communities in the world. However, trade of agricultural products, from and within this region, has been hindered by factors including Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues. The project assessed the SPS systems and frameworks, and identified challenges and opportunities for further investments in five EAC countries: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Project Overview

So, what’s the problem

The EAC is one of the fastest-growing regional economic economies and agriculture contributes significantly to this. Approximately 80% of the EAC population live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. However, the trade of agriculture between EAC partner states is hindered by among others, unharmonized sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards including different entry and exit points, inspection procedures, lack of diagnostic capacity, equipment and certification schemes to ensure market standards are delivered safely and efficiently.

The EAC Secretariat took some important steps to create common SPS standards that are harmonized among partner states, also referred to as the EAC SPS Legal Framework (ESLF).

While the EAC SPS Protocol has not been fully ratified, some regulations have been adopted by the Council of Ministers as harmonized EAC SPS measures. These include (i) phytosanitary measures; (ii) the Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) guides for maize, rice and beans; and (iii) the food safety measures, with nearly 80% of the work on harmonized animal health measures being completed.

What is this project doing?

The USDA-supported Trade of Agriculture Safely and Efficiently in East Africa (TRASE) project, implemented by Land O’Lakes Venture 37 (V37), aimed to build from these successes and work at regional and national levels across two phases.

Phase one, CABI worked in partnership with targeted EAC Partner States, USDA and other stakeholders, CABI and KO Associates (KOA) conducted a technical and legal assessment of SPS systems in EAC to help prioritize SPS investment options that will improve both regional and international trade and further strengthen regional integration of the EAC in five EAC countries: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. CABI engaged with authorities and private sector players within the EAC to identify SPS issues affecting regional and international trade and which will develop regional commitments and investment opportunities at country and regional levels whilst applying synergies from existing projects and investments. Phase one aimed to:

  • Expand trade of agricultural products domestically, regionally and internationally in the EAC by domesticating the EAC SPS Legal Framework (ESLF), a series of regulations, standard operating procedures and measures, at national levels
  • Drive best practices in SPS functions such as testing, inspection and enforcement. The TRASE project will establish three center of excellence (CoE) laboratories as regional models. TRASE will also work with identified Competent Authorities to strengthen pest and disease surveillance, notification and overall transparency at the regional and domestic levels
  • Strengthen regional and national SPS committees to coordinate and communicate with the private sector and partner states to reduce trade barriers, increase transparency and raise SPS awareness
  • Increase producer and consumer awareness on the importance of safe food and the harmful effects of low quality and/or counterfeit inputs on public health and trade, which will drive demand for safer products and increase political will to support and enforce SPS standards.

Phase two, CABI was contracted to provide technical support geared towards increasing capacity for surveillance, notifications and emergency response in four EAC countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, with a specific focus on enlisted quarantine pests and diseases posing emerging threats. Phase two included the development of a regional strategy, national implementation plans, training on pest risk management and field simulation exercises.

CABI is providing ongoing training to address gaps identified in the assessment. TRASE is planning to facilitate training for Plant Health Inspectors in the EAC countries, both from the national plant protection organisation (NPPOs) and private sector actors. The overall objective of this assignment is to increase NPPOs and private sector associations’ inspection capacity and increase the adoption of risk-based inspections through public-private partnerships (PPP). Plant health inspectors play a crucial role in protecting plant health across trade, agriculture, and the environment. Plant health inspectors shall have experience in professional horticulture, with excellent plant, pest and disease identification skills and an understanding of biosecurity measures.


CABI recruited eight consultants and established a working relationship with KOA. An effective approach and tools for undertaking the assessment were developed and agreed upon at an e-workshop involving CABI, KOA, Consultants and V37 staff. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, desk reviews, supported with virtual approaches collected SPS information from the five target EAC countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda). The results have been collated into consolidated reports that will inform investment opportunities for the five-year TRASE project.

Under phase two, virtual training workshops on the practical implementation of various International Plant Protection Convention and International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures were held for the public sector (NPPOs) and various private sector players. A technical guide for Huanglongbing bacteria Liberibacter asiaticus (Asian greening disease) was also developed and shared, and a pest alert was sent to Partner States.

Training on the development of the PPP framework and a national plan for surveillance, notification, and emergency response was held with authorities, research, and commodity trade associations from Partner States. The PPP framework and national plan were then later developed.

Under TRASE, CABI has trained Plant Health Inspectors in the EAC countries from NPPOs and the private sector. The training was delivered online and face-to-face; topics included SPS issues, international standards for phytosanitary measures, PPP frameworks and the use of voluntary and private standards to increase oversight and development of Standard Operation Procedures on sampling, inspections and certification for priority agricultural commodities.

Project Manager

MaryLucy Oronje

Scientist, SPS

Canary Bird, 673 Limuru Road, Nairobi, Kenya