Join hands to tackle climate change, EA ministries told


Nairobi: Ministries of agriculture, environment and trade in East Africa need to harmonise their policies to effectively deal with issues of climate change, food security and trade. This has become even more important in view of the on-going negotiations at both the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Both these negotiations include issues related to food security and agriculture.

Trade experts are concerned that lack of harmonisation could be a drawback to African countries during the WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference to be held in Nairobi from December 15 to 18, the first time an international trade conference of that level will be hosted by a sub-Saharan African nation. While launching the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference logo and website last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta said hosting the conference is not only an honour to Kenya but also to East Africa and the continent.

Due to a lack of linkages among relevant ministries, the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS International) — through funds from Swedish International Development Cooperation (Sida) — has been working with countries in the region for the past three years to harmonise policies on climate change, food security and trade in agricultural products.

Extreme weather patterns

The programmes are supposed to address climate change in the forms of extreme weather patterns that are already having negative impacts on agriculture and trade patterns in food products throughout East Africa, disrupting livelihoods.

Ms Martha Getachew Bekele, the programme officer on trade development at CUTS International, says it is important to use trade as a solution to the impacts of climate change on food security, especially in the value chain where agriculture feeds into the manufacturing sector.

As part of these efforts, CUTS organised a one-day seminar at the end of April in Nairobi to discuss the current state of policy harmonisation among trade, climate change and food security in the region. The seminar took place at Hilton Hotel, Nairobi, under the auspices of Promoting Agriculture-Climate-Trade Linkages in the East African Community (PACT EAC) project. It attracted experts on climate, agriculture and international trade.

Makueni and Murang’a counties demonstrated their efforts to cope with climate change, with Murang’a revealing it had adopted improved seeds capable of withstanding the effects of climate change such as prolonged drought. Makueni has developed community-based early warning systems that translate changing weather patterns into easy-to-understand languages.

The seminar also examined the region’s level of preparedness for the upcoming conference.

Mr Fredrick Matwang’a - one of the three Kenyan negotiators at the WTO in charge of agriculture - said issues that are important to the region will be addressed at the WTO conference in Nairobi. They include agricultural market access, trade-related intellectual property (TRIPs), e-commerce, and non-agricultural market access.

At the ninth WTO conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013, the ministers adopted certain decisions to streamline trade in agricultural produce, as well as food security options for developing countries.

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