Climate Mitigation Food Security Trade Policy at Work

The Climate-Trade-Food Security Nexus: After Four Years

This last regional annual meeting of the PACT EAC project took stock of four years of many stakeholders’ efforts to enhance policy coherence across the three issues of climate change, food security and trade in the five East African Community Member States. Four years down the road, evidence presented at the event indicate that East African countries are now taking more seriously the interrelations between climate change, food security and trade, with several recent policies taking them into account and institutional processes becoming more inclusive.

“Planning national, regional and international strategies on climate change, food security and trade issues in isolation could lead to fragmented policy frameworks, and negative outcomes. I therefore thank CUTS International for working on and emphasizing the importance of the linkages between these domains for four years now.” These were the words of long time PACT Project member; Hon. Flavia Munaaba, Minister of State for Environment, Uganda, at PACT EAC’s fourth Regional Annual Meeting (RAM). Presiding under the theme of “Climate, Trade, and Food Security Nexus: Reviewing Policy Impacts, Practice Changes, and Increased Knowledge;” this fourth RAM is brought to you by CUTS International, Geneva, and CUTS Africa Resource Centre Nairobi, in collaboration with other country partners of the PACT EAC project in the East African Community.


Climate change manifested through frequent extreme weather events impacts agricultural and trade patterns throughout the EAC, disrupting the livelihoods of 80% of the population who heavily rely on this sector. However, as was rightly highlighted by Hon. Jesca Eriyo, EAC Deputy Secretary General on the first day of RAM in Nairobi, “trade can be a tool to mitigate food crises and contribute to sustainable social and economic development of the region.” Hon. Eriyo went on to explain how the PACT EAC Project has contributed to that by “building the capacity of relevant EAC stakeholders to improve their understanding of linkages, and to develop holistic policies…which can be valuable in harnessing the potential of trade in reducing poverty and hunger…” However, using trade as an instrument to bolster food security is by no means an easy or passive process; the key players must take active roles in formulating and shaping policy and institutional synergies between the three policy areas; climate change, agriculture and trade.

Key stakeholders playing a role in mitigating the three issues must have adequate knowledge, skills, and networks in order to respond efficiently. The first day of the RAM saw the discussion on how the PACT project has enhanced said stakeholder’s skills and the status of coordination between them at regional, national and multilateral levels. It also discussed an overview of PACT EAC objectives and results, as well as an overview of the EAC Geneva Forum, its main achievements, and how it has benefitted the EAC WTO delegates.

The initiatives to address these issues had materialized in 2011 during the launch of the 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. “I am glad that CUTS is a partner in our agenda for integration and development, including our collaboration in EAC agriculture, climate change and trade linkages. I thank you for this partnership.” He reiterated on the occasion of CUTS’ 30th Anniversary.

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. They have achieved much through their enhanced knowledge, coordination and improved capabilities in EAC Geneva missions. In Kenya, for example, The PACT study inspired the inclusion of linkages with trade in the 2013 National Environment Policy. There, a dedicated section on “Trade and Environment” provides for the mainstreaming of environmental considerations into the National Trade Policy. In Burundi, parliamentary commissions on Agriculture and the Environment have publicly expressed the need for the Climate Early Warning System to be brought under renewed attention. And through CUTS and ESRF campaigning efforts, the Tanzanian Forest Policy has been reviewed to provide stronger regulation of charcoal trade sector for environmental sustainability.

On a multilateral level, the PACT EAC has successfully established a bi-monthly EAC Geneva Forum to support EAC WTO delegates and connect them to grassroots. As a result, EAC Geneva delegates indicated better ability to participate in WTO discussions in an informed manner. A newly-posted Ugandan WTO negotiator reported the role of CUTS’ forum in bringing him up-to-speed on the many complex WTO issues. He would later coordinate the LDC Group at the WTO.

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); Trade in Services; Trade Facilitation; Preparations towards WTO Ministerial Conferences; Geographical Indications; Aid for Trade; and effects of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) on trade policy and trade relations among other topics.

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. 76% stakeholders indicated continuation of work on CCFST linkages issues after participation in project. Despite these achievements, there is still a long way to go.

Climate change has far reaching impacts and consequences on other sectors apart from agriculture and trade. The work in the past four years provides a good foundation to build on as the challenges continue. The EAC is ready and working to meet these challenges, however, effective participation in these initiatives and implementation of their outcomes requires efforts by all stakeholders. As the Cabinet Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources said during his opening in RAM, “ it is high time that think-tanks like CUTS include the impact of climate change on for instance the manufacturing sector and establish linkages as well as come up with policy recommendations…recognizing value addition as one of the driving forces of development for the region.”

Day 2 of the meeting saw the discussion of different impacts and success of the advocacy campaigns by PACT EAC national partners, such as: integrating trade aspects in the new Kenya environmental policy; allowing the Rwanda environment ministry to sit on the National Trade Forum; and the revised Tanzania Forest Policy to address concerns related to the impact of charcoal trade on deforestation. The meeting ended with a discussion on the continuation of the PACT EAC project, in response to the positive feedback received from project stakeholders.