Promoting agriculture, climate change for development in EAC.

Apr. 24, 2015. The Guardian, Tanzania.

The Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) in collaboration with CUTS International Geneva and other partners in East Africa has for over three years been in the forefront in informing and influencing policy and practice so as to address challenges related to the linkages between food security, climate change and trade.

Through the project called ‘Promoting Agriculture-Climate-Trade Linkages in the East African Community (PACT EAC),’ ESRF has brought together, informed, trained and through the advocacy action changed the attitudes of East African stakeholders who form a critical mass for transformation.

Climate change manifested through frequent extreme weather events is already impacting agricultural and trade patterns throughout East Africa and Tanzania in particular, disrupting the livelihoods of beneficiaries all along the agricultural value chain.

As a result some areas in the region are at risk of food insecurity, with crop failures in flooded areas, livestock deaths in increasingly arid lands and unaffordable food in product markets becoming common challenges for East Africans.

With appropriate policy responses, trade could help prevent additional large-scale hunger arising from this situation, for example by moving food from surplus to deficit areas or providing alternative livelihood opportunities.

However, using trade as an instrument to bolster food security is by no means an easy or passive process, and the key players must take active roles in formulating and shaping policy and institutional synergies between the three policy areas namely climate change, agriculture and trade.

The initiatives to address these issues had materialised in 2011 through the implementation of PACT-EAC project. Grateful to the Swedish government for its commitment and financial support during the course of implementation of this innovative project that was intended to promote regional economic integration while ensuring a more secure food supply and sustainable use of natural resources through trade, among others.

This initiative originated from the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between CUTS International and the EAC Secretariat, whose Secretary-General acknowledged the value of this partnership for successful East African regional integration.

Almost four years down the road, East African countries have been able to take advantage of the project to establish or strengthen linkages across their climate change, agriculture and trade policies.

The partnership under the project has contributed to some extent to breaking the ‘silos’ in which trade and climate change stakeholders in the EAC operate, and reportedly inspired over 30 local initiatives that promote similar linkages.

In Tanzania, ESRF and CUTS consistently voiced concerns that weak governance has led to the flourishing of the charcoal trade industry which is now the second main cause of deforestation.

Deforestation is for many years a worsening factor of climate change in the country. With about 71 per cent of all urban households in Tanzania using charcoal, while 20 per cent use firewood.

In Dar es Salaam, 91 per cent of all households use charcoal and less than 3 per cent use firewood.

In Tanzania 48.8 million hectares or some 53 per cent of the country’s land surface are classified as forests. Therefore, demand for charcoal has reached an alarming level because of the general belief among the people that food cooked using charcoal tastes better than that cooked using other sources of energy.

Last year, ESRF and CUTS regularly engaged with ministry officials on ways to strengthen the regulation of the largely informal charcoal trade sector. The successful advocacy campaign led to the inclusion of several provisions to that effect in the revised draft Forest Policy.

In a section dedicated to wood fuel in the draft policy (yet to be formally passed), the government therefore undertakes to promote the establishment of private woodlots and plantations, planting trees on farm for wood fuel production, efficient wood energy conversion and use of technologies and alternative sources of energy.

The policy further promotes the “Provision of alternative livelihoods to charcoal production and sale in rural areas so as to minimise forest degradation and damage to the environment”.

More recently, ESRF joined hands with Mtwara and Njombe Local Government Authorities (LGAs) to advocate for the mainstreaming of charcoal related activities in the formulation and implementation of District Development Plans (DDPs).

Leveraging trade as an instrument to secure food security in the face of climate change not only requires pro-active involvement of national and regional stakeholders, but also effective participation in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) where the ongoing Doha round negotiations are shaping tomorrow’s framework for our countries to trade with the rest of the world.

However, EAC Missions are characteristically understaffed and overwhelmed with a work schedule that requires follow-up of several issues under the WTO negotiations.

To address this gap, CUTS under the PACT EAC project launched a forum for East African negotiators in Geneva, whereby it provides short analytical notes which have enabled the region to better push for its interests in the negotiations.

EAC country missions have been actively involved in this forum, whereby they met every two months to discuss issues of common interest at the WTO and be updated on the stakeholders’ perspectives on these issues back home.

“Delegates in my mission have a big appreciation of CUTS, because they are learning a lot from CUTS-organised meetings where exchange of views and ideas is always a matter of the day”, said Modest Jonathan Mero, Ambassador of Tanzania to the UN in Geneva on the occasion of the project’s third regional meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi last year.

"The programme is well-tailored and it provides an opportunity for delegates to exchange information and learn new things. New colleagues who join the diplomatic corps would need to be part and parcel of this CUTS programme,” he added.

Over the past three years, delegates at the forum have discussed WTO topics as varied as industrial products and agriculture negotiations in the Post-Bali Work Programme; agricultural investments; EU-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and trade in services.

Others are trade facilitation; preparations towards WTO ministerial conferences; geographical indications; aid for trade, effects of Sanitary, phytosanitary (SPS) measures, technical barriers to trade (TBT) on trade policy and trade relations among other topics.

Speaking after opening the seventh PACT EAC National Reference Group meeting over the weekend in Dar es Salam, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Natural Resoures and Tourism , Dr Adelheim Meru, explained that the upcoming forest policy will minimise forest degradation and damage to the environment.

“I am pleased to know that ESRF joined hands with Mtwara and Njombe Local government Authorities (LGAs) to support the mainstreaming of charcoal related activities in the formulation and implementation of District Development Plans (DDPs).”

“If this will be implemented at the district level, we shall witness a great reduction of forest degradation in the country,” he said.

He further noted “Everybody should also be conscious that leveraging trade as an instrument to secure food security in the face of climate change not only requires pro-active involvement of national and regional stakeholders, but also effective participation in multilateral trade negotiations.” He pointed out that at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the ongoing Doha round table negotiations are shaping tomorrow’s framework for the countries to trade with the rest of the world.

“However, our missions to the WTO face many challenges to their effective participation and are overwhelmed with a work schedule that requires follow-up of numerous complex issues,” he noted.

“We are pleased to see that CUTS and ESRF have contributed to address this gap by regularly providing technical support to our missions in Geneva.”

He further stated that “I am aware that the current project is in its final stages.”

He has urged Development Partners, such as the Government of Sweden through Swedish International Development cooperation (SIDA) who supported the first phase, to continue supporting ESRF and CUTS International so as to further implement a follow-up project to greater influence policy decision making in the country.

“It is our conviction that we should build on the momentum created by the present successes of the project to further develop our domestic capacities to holistically deal with these important issues.”

This would be particularly important at a time when our countries are implementing the EAC Industrialisation Policy, where a holistic approach to climate, agriculture and trade will be critical in achieving the objective of unleashing East Africa’s potential for agro-processing.

For her part, Monica A. Kagya, the Acting Assistant Director Beekeeping Division Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism Tanzania said that wood fuel in Tanzania was characterised by very weak governance and weak law enforcement. It is almost a free access to wood resources.

Kagya said: “Generally, wood resources are illegally and unsustainably harvested through the use of poor technologies. With licenses and levies being increasingly evaded, this makes the sector highly informal, almost totally unregulated, and open to any and all who wish to participate in it,” she blamed.

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