Poor agriculture policies hamper growth in EAC

The Observer . October 13, 2013

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD’s) trade and environment report 2013, warns that continuous rural poverty, persistent hunger and growing populations, must be treated as a collective crisis.

The report sub-titled, “Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate” says urgent and far-reaching action is needed before climate change begins to cause major disruptions to agriculture, especially in developing countries.

Despite the warning, vulnerability to increased frequency and intensity of droughts and floods in East Africa continue to suffocate the region’s economic growth. With a population of approximately 130 million people, the EAC remains vulnerable to the imbalance between climate change, food security and trade.

Climate, food and trade experts contend that while trade is critical for food stability in the grossly deficient regions, correcting existing imbalances between where food is produced and where it is needed, will reduce irregularities that exist in agricultural output, food-processing and markets.

Experts, stakeholders and leaders attending a regional EAC forum in Kampala last week noted the remarkable policy disconnect between trade, agriculture and environment. They called for more coordinated policies tackling trade, climate change and food security.

“Food availability is already being affected through reduced production, poor storage and inefficient processing. Therefore, policies to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change are essential to prevent the disastrous effect of food security and livelihoods of rural people,” said Flavia Munaaba, minister of state for Water and Environment.

But climate experts argue that setting up policies that are not implemented is detrimental to the EAC’s efforts to address the three linkages.

“It is not good for you to put a policy in place and don’t implement it. A good policy is verified through implementation. We want policies that we can see on the ground,” says Prof Godwell Nhamo, a Climate Change and Green Economy specialist from the University of South Africa.

“The EAC is not operating in utopia. We need a climate resilient EAC that will address climate change in the context of green economy, job creations, sustainability and inclusiveness,” Prof Nhamo added.

The forum organised under the Promoting Agriculture, Climate and Trade linkages in the East African Community (PACT EAC) project, a regional initiative led by CUTS International in collaboration with other partners, found that despite commitments to implement trade policy measures to ensure regional food security, government interventions often disrupt competitive market conditions and encourage corrupt practices.

Themed “Climate, Food, Trade: Bringing Coherence into East African Policy Responses,” the regional project sought to build on the research over the past two years to propose elements for better policy coherence in the EAC at the national, regional and international levels.

While the trade reforms undertaken by the governments of the EAC partner states so far are fundamental and have significantly opened up cross-border agricultural trade, food insecurity still persists in the region.

The forum is attended by about 150 representatives of the governments of EAC partner states, private sector, civil society, academia, members of the East African Legislative Assembly, judges of the East African Court of Justice, members of national parliaments, media and the EAC Secretariat, among others.

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