The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) is a sub-regional not-for-profit association. It was established in 1994 by ten member countries represented by their national agricultural research for development institutes. The 10 member countries are: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. During the 1st ASARECA General Assembly in December 2011, South Sudan joined the ASARECA family, making the number of members 11
Before South Sudan joined ASARECA, the 10 ASARECA countries covered an area of 8.5 million km2 with a total population of more than 280 million people, most of whom are rural dwellers pursuing agricultural livelihoods. Roughly one-third, 300 million hectares, of East and Central Africa's (ECA) total land area is devoted to agricultural use. Agriculture is therefore the most common occupation in ECA, and agriculture looms large in national economies throughout the region. Overall, agriculture accounts for 43% of the regional GDP.
Given that the bulk of the region's population resides in rural areas and depends on agriculture for income and sustenance, and given the low levels of productivity growth in the sector, hunger and malnutrition have deepened in ECA in recent years. The picture that emerges for ECA is, therefore, one of a region comprising countries progressively less able to meet the needs of their burgeoning populations. With agriculture looming so large in most national economies, sluggish growth in agricultural productivity has translated into sluggish overall growth and generally low per capita income levels.
High levels of agricultural importation-particularly of staples-appear to be only partially filling the consumption needs of a population lacking purchasing power, resulting in high levels of adult and child malnutrition and towering child mortality rates.
In such a situation, where the challenges faced by agriculture and agricultural research to change the situation and peoples livelihoods are immense, it is critical for national level efforts to also be complemented by sub- regional level collective action of countries in the sub-region.