By Sailu Bah Two consecutive capacity building workshops for the members of the National Codex, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Committee (NCSPSC) toenhance their participation in standing setting processes of three international organizations is underway at the Kairaba Beach Hotel from the 16 – 19 December 2014. With financial support from the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the technical support of the Pan African SPS Organisation (PAN-SPSO), the training is aimed at creating understanding and increasing the participation of NCSPSC members in the work of Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) and International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). According to the organisers, the members will also be guided by the PAN, SPSO Project staff to develop a national Strategic Plan for mainstreaming the activities and results of the latter’s project as well reinforce capacities to put in place a sustainable SPS agenda. In his welcoming and introductory remarks at the opening session, Dr Omar Touray, Chairperson of NCSPSC, said this is the first of two training workshops financed by the US Codex Office in Washington US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enhance capacity of members and institutions in terms of enabling them to be better prepared in their participation in standard setting processes at the international level. He said the participants are drawn from a broad base of stakeholders. Mr. Malang Fofana, Principal Programme Officer at the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), representing the national Codex Contact Point (Modou Cheyassin Phall), outlined the main objectives and expected outcomes of the two workshops to strengthen the capacities of NCSPSC. In his speech, Dr. Raphael Coly, Project Coordinator of PAN-SPSO, SPS expert and trainer, thanked the USDA and Codex Office for funding the workshop and for their continuous financial and technical support to African countries to effectively participate in Codex work and build effective national Codex offices. “African countries need more capacity building training support for data generation to back African positions in codex standards setting, specifically for setting maximum residue limits (MRLs), maximum levels (MLs), etc.,” said the AU-IBAR official. He added that more importantly there is an urgent need to strengthen the Codex committees by setting well-structured national bodies and coordination mechanisms to ensure their effective functioning. He gave a brief overview of Codex in which he noted that statutes of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) were approved in 1963 marking the starting point of the organisation’s work as a joint FAO/WHO Commission. He added that in 2013, the Commission comprises 186 members including 53 African member countries and a number of observers such as the African Union and six other regional economic communities in Africa. Dr. Coly elaborated on the mandate of CAC and how Africa is represented in this international body. He underscored the need for Africa to have one voice at the level of Codex and which is recognised and supported by the AU. He urged the Gambia Government to become a signatory to the IPPC which will be advantageous to the country and to provide financial support to the national Codex Committee to effectiveness and sustainability. On behalf of the FAO Representative, Madame Mariatou Njie said consumers have the right to expect that the food available on domestic markets is safe and of the expected quality, adding that FAO works with governmental authorities, with local industry and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that this expectation is met. Madame Njie elaborated on FAO’s food safety and quality programme which, she said, provides independent scientific advise on food safety and nutrition which serves as the basis for international food standards, develop institutional and individual capacities for control and management, policy development, facilitate global access to information and housing the joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius secretariat. The FAO official underscored the importance of food safety as a public health priority as well as an essential step to achieving food safety. “Effective food safety and quality management systems are key not only to safeguarding the health and well being of people but also to fostering economic development and improving livelihoods by promoting access to domestic and international markets,” said Madame Njie. She said FAO is a leader in the development of global food safety initiatives and translating these into country level action. And that it supports member countries in developing capacities to effectively manage food safety and quality as well as to accessing domestic, regional and international markets. The FAO official also reiterated the call for the Gambia government to accede to the IPPC (Convention) which is an international plant health agreement which aims to protect cultivated and wild plants by preventing the introduction of and spread of pests into endangered areas and cooperating to control pest of plants and plant products. Delivering the official opening statement on behalf of the Secretary General, the Head of Civil Service and the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Madame Rohey Bittaye Darboe said it is empirical that the government of the Gambia is very much concerned with the safety and quality of food produced, imported and consumed in the country. She cited the Food Act 2005 which was reviewed to pave way to the enactment of the Food Safety and Quality Act 2011 leading to the establishment of the Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA) in 2013. “This Authority is under the purview of the Office of the President and is responsible for overall official control of the safety and quality of food, water, beverages and animal feed, along the food chain from production up to its supply to the final consumer,” she said. Madam Darboe said the Authority is expected to contribute to consumer health and safety, facilitate trade and control fraudulent and deceptive food marketing, labeling and advertising practices. The representative of the Secretary General said the National Codex Committee guided by their Strategic Plan that is due for review in 2015 has contributed tremendously to the development of the national food control system in The Gambia by providing policy advice to government, and has participated in the development of Food Safety and Quality Act 2011. The National Codex Committee, she added, has also mobilized resources for the review of the National Plant Protection System and National Plant Protection Services. “The Committee’s new strategic Plan for the period 2015 – 2020 will in addition to food safety and quality, address animal and plant health more comprehensively. This will be in line with embracing the concept of bio-security approach that ensures linkages between food safety, animal and plant health,” said Madame Darboe. She said the government acknowledged the support that AU and in particular the PAN-SPSO Project has accorded to the Gambia in terms of capacity building to enhance the country’s participation in standard setting processes of Codex, OIE and IPPC. She also expressed appreciation for the continued support of FAO and WHO. Madame Darboe concluded by enjoining the participants to make best use of the training and ensure that their collective efforts are translated into action for the benefit of the whole country.]]>
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