Esther is a single mother of two children living in a marginalized area somewhere in the EAC. She farms a small plot of land to earn a living. She grows sugarcane, and she wishes to transport this to a sugar processing factory quite far away. The roads are bad and the people providing transport are few, so she has to pay more than half of the revenue from selling the sugarcane for the transport…
Esther is a single mother of two children living in a marginalized area somewhere in the EAC. She farms a small plot of land to earn a living. She grows sugarcane, and she wishes to transport this to a sugar processing factory quite far away. The roads are bad and the people providing transport are few, so she has to pay more than half of the revenue from selling the sugarcane for the transport.
This year, she has faced a drought which crippled her harvest to a bare half of its normal size. She realises that she will not be able to pay for her two children’s school fees unless she finds an alternative source of income. As time goes, another realization comes creeping in. Due to the drought, harvests have failed on a large scale in the area and there are signs that the food produced will not cover the needs of the local population.
Does this story ring any bell to you? Admittedly, this is a fictitious story. And yet, the 70% of East Africans who live from farming will find resonance in the challenges faced by Esther in the story.
Last week in Dar-es-Salaam, this illustrative story was the key feature at the launch of a new regional project supported by Sida and being implemented by CUTS International and its partners. Over the next four years, this second phase of the project “Promoting Agriculture, Climate and Trade Linkages in the EAC” (PACT EAC2) will build the capacities of East African stakeholders for climate-aware, trade-driven and food security-enhancing agro-processing development in the region.
The project inception meeting was held in Dar es Salaam from 29th Feb to 01st March, 2016. In her keynote address, the Ugandan Minister of State for Environment Hon. Flavia Nabugere Munaaba said “East African governments, alongside nearly 200 other governments, took a symbolic step in December last year in Paris. It is now in our hands to implement this historic universal agreement and our Intended Nationally Determined Contributions towards processes that are owned by our citizens and that are conscious of linkages between climate change, agriculture, food security and trade’’.
She was joined by Dr. Julius Ningu, Tanzanian Director of Environment speaking on behalf of the Deputy minister of Vice President’s Office, Union Affairs and Environment, who recalled that “the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that in the next decades, countries in East Africa may lose over 20 per cent of their production capacity due to the ever-increasing climate vagaries”.
Speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General of the East African Community Secretariat Amb. Richard Sezibera, Mr. Moses Marwa conveyed the support of the regional organization to the success of the project and emphasised the relevance of the project for the regional agenda. He stated,
“Agro-processing and agri-business is one of the priority sectors targeted by the EAC in the short term. Agro-processing and agri business sector is one of the prioritized sectors in which policy efforts will be directed to increase investment so as to improve competitiveness and value addition opportunities”.
During the opening of the meeting, guests had been welcomed by Prof. Fortunata Makene, Head of Research at the Economic and Social Research Foundation, who co-organised the event as the project coordinator for Tanzania. Johannes Svensson, Programme Manager at the Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi, joined her on behalf of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. His powerful illustrative story of Esther provided the context for the meeting and the project.
Until 2019, the project will bring together, inform, train and move to advocacy action hundreds of stakeholders from the government, businesses, civil society, media, academia and farming communities. Soon, teams of national experts engaged by the project will analyse the interplay of agro-processing with climate change, trade and food security in each EAC country. Findings of their research studies will later inform sensitization, training and advocacy activities towards developing lasting policy solutions for climate-aware, trade-driven, food security-enhancing agro-processing development.
The still infant agro-processing industry in East Africa has been earmarked in the EAC Industrialization Policy as having huge potential for poverty reduction, growth and regional integration. But, the region’s success in realising this potential will partly depend on its ability to factor in the ever-increasing challenges posed by climate change, and work in synergy with its own trade agenda.
In an ideal scenario, trade policies should ensure the availability of inputs despite climate change, markets for the processed products and access to cleaner technologies; while climate change policies support this effort through targeted adaptation and mitigation initiatives. “The role of international trade and climate negotiations in framing the policy space for such policies should not be overlooked” said Julien Grollier, Programme Officer at CUTS International, Geneva while presenting the project.
To this effect, the project has established two regular forums for trade (WTO) and climate (UNFCCC) negotiators respectively. Besides the on-demand availability of CUTS’ technical expertise, negotiators will benefit from country updates whereby people on the field will provide them with a snapshot of the current ground realities.
The launch event brought together key regional players to bring them on board and start identifying important elements to be addressed by the upcoming project research.