"For farmers, the future belongs to the organized" East African grassroots make themselves heard at the margins of the WTO Ministerial

December 15, 2011, Geneva

In the face of a world that is increasingly integrated and in a region where climate change threatens to create an additional 600 million hungry East Africans, "the future belongs to the organized farmer". There is an urgent need to enable the East African farmer to organize and adapt so that he can survive. Several representatives of NGOs from the East African Community raised this concern today during a side-event to the WTO Ministerial Conference organized by CUTS International Geneva.

African parliamentarians, academics as well as representatives of International Organizations and of the civil society met at the margins of the WTO Ministerial Conference to take stock of the key findings of five CUTS studies providing possible ways to foster healthy interactions between stakeholders involved in the agriculture sector in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. These studies were conducted by country researchers who, from the field, collected the perceptions of farmers, traders, civil servants, investors and other key actors.

Mr. François Munyentwari, Director ACORD Rwanda, noted that out of the 925 million with no access to quality food, 200 million are located sub-Saharan Africa. In his country, Rwanda, they make 40% of a population largely dominated by smallholder farmers. It is therefore a concern that, despite everyone acknowledging the emergency of improving African agriculture to cope with food insecurity, the commitment made by African governments in Maputo to allow 10% of their budgets to agriculture is not being implemented yet.

Participants recognised that trade can offer many ways of feeding the hungry, but were concerned that food has now become a normal commodity subject to rent-seeking behaviour. This increases the price of imported food and puts a great burden on the poor in food-scarce regions. While in some regions a priority has now been given to the production of export crops like horticulture and coffee which generate more revenue, it was noted that "This is not applicable to small-scale, subsistence farmers. People don't eat flowers!"

Kenyan parliamentarians admitted that they were wondering until when the region will be bound to export only raw materials that create no synergies across industries and generate little employment and economic development. Mr. Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary-General CUTS International, informed them that India is planning substantial investment in agro-processing in Africa, which will enable them to add value to many of their agricultural commodities and thus create employment, and increase export revenue generation.

In introducing the meeting earlier in the morning, Mr. Ramamurti Badrinath, Director CUTS International Geneva noted that all the five studies presented, which were undertaken under the "Facilitating Equitable Agricultural Development in sub-Saharan Africa" (FEAD) Project, recognize the emergency of bringing the climate change dimension into the food security debate. This key concern is now being taken on board by CUTS International Geneva through its newly-launched project entitled "Promoting Agriculture-Climate-Trade Linkages in the East African Community" (PACT EAC), which was also presented during the event.

For further information please contact:

Julien Grollier, Assistant Programme Officer, +41 227346080, jg@cuts.org