New trade policy to address climate change challenges in the offing

New Times - Business. March 25, 2014

The government is reviewing the national trade policy to address new challenges, especially those posed by climate change, John Mwesige, an expert on external trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, has said.

The move is also aimed at promoting sustainable agro-business to avoid food insecurity.

Mwesige, who was speaking during the release of a new study; “Climate, Food, Trade; Where is the Policy Nexus?” last week, said the policy would be ready by June (if all goes according to plan).

Mwesige acknowledged that the current trade policy does not directly show the linkage between trade and climate change.

According to the study by CUTS International, a Geneva-based research firm and East Africa Community Civil Platform, lack of a policy that looks at the relationship between climate change, food security and trade exposes the country to food insecurity. The survey notes that Rwanda could face food insecurity and destabilised trade patterns if there is no policy to safeguard against climate change and the resulting threat of food insecurity through trade.

John Bosco Kanyangoga, a consultant on trade policy and one of the authors of the report, said increased use of inorganic fertilisers, chemicals, pesticides, mechanisation, and infrastructure development had greatly increased greenhouse gas emissions.

“As a result, the country is experiencing low crop productivity, food insecurity, more crop diseases and reduction in water resources, as well as floods; all of which are affecting agriculture.”

Rwanda’s food production for major crops, including maize, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, wheat, yams and vegetables, dropped marginally last year.

Rwanda Agricultural Board attributes the decline to unpredictable weather patterns.

Clement Onyango, the CUTS International regional representative, said it is important for policy-makers to draft a relevant trade policy that addresses challenges presented by climate change to ensure sustainable economic development and food security.

“There is evidence that global warming is affecting the region’s capacity to produce for enough food for the domestic and international markets. This could have long-term consequences on economic development and sustainable food supply in the region if measures are not put in place to address the situation,” Onyango said.

According to Prudence Sebahizi, the co-ordinator of the East African Community Civil Platform, it is crucial that Rwanda makes holistic policies that integrate trade, climate and food security.

“Rwanda’s economy is highly reliant on agricultural imports, it is therefore important that an inclusive trade policy is put in place to maximise opportunities and minimise costs arising from the interface between trade, environment and sustainable development,” Sebahizi said.

“As food security becomes a global issue, trade policies at national and international levels play an increasingly greater role in addressing the imapct of climate change,” Alphonse Mutabazia, a specialist on climate change, noted.

A shift in the agriculture practices according to trade, experts requires an integral role in the use of organic farming, resilient seeds, crop rotation and land consolidation.

The global market for organic food and beverage products reached $60b in 2010; Rwanda has dedicated about 13,356 hectors to organic farming and has so far 2,556 organic producers, this should be further boosted to counter the effects of greenhouse gasses.

Jean de Dieu Dushimimana, the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) crop intensification programme extension and mobilisation officer, said that the effects of climate change have not had a huge impact on crop productivity, but the report paints a different picture, calling for urgent measures to ensure the country does not face food insecurity or miss out on the lucrative food market in the region.

Dushimimana, said RAB was employing large-and-small scale irrigation to boost food production in areas affected by prolonged drought.

He said Bugesera, Kirehe, Nyagatare and Kayonza were some of the parts of the country that have experienced unpredictable weather conditions that have hurt food output.

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