Being heard on the world stage
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CTA. 2002. Being heard on the world stage. Rural Radio Resource Pack 02/5. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57390
The Food Rights Campaign Co-ordinator for Action Aid Kenya explains the work that Action Aid is doing to ensure farmers? concerns are heard in World Trade Organisation negotiations. She also encourages farmers to be active in pursuing their interests at a national and international level.
Being heard on the world stage Cue: If international trade is like a boxing match, the World Trade Organisation, or WTO, would have to be the referee - keeping the fight clean and ensuring the rules are followed. And while many developing countries may often feel like a tiny David facing the developed world?s Goliath, WTO trade talks do give them the opportunity to make and influence trade agreements. Government delegations from around the world come to the WTO to fight their corner, and in the case of African countries, they are able to fight as a team, called the ?African Group?. Making sure that the voices of ordinary farmers are heard at such negotiations is a job that has been taken up by a number of NGOs. One of them is Action Aid, an organisation that offers both practical support to farmers, as well as lobbying for their interests. Mweni Kiio is the Food Rights Campaign co-ordinator at Action Aid Kenya. In our next report she tells Eric Kadenge about the kind of support her organisation is giving to Kenya?s farmers, and her passionate belief that farmers need to make their voices heard. IN: ?We have a two-pronged approach ? OUT: ?both nationally and internationally.? DUR?N 4?18? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Mweni Kiio of Action Aid Kenya, on the need for farmers? voices to be heard by policy makers. Transcript Kiio We have a two-pronged approach. Our regional offices, that are working with farmers to provide for them some of the services that the government used to provide, like better seeds, or even working with the government to provide extension services. And also providing some kind of credit, in that we support their farmer groups so that they can be able to assist the farmer, to keep him in business. Then we also have the second bit which is the policy aspect, where we lobby for better policies. Like we have been challenging some of these policies under the WTO. That is, there is a certain agreement called ?Agreement on Agriculture? which we believe, if Kenya is to adopt everything that is in that agreement as it stands, then our farmers stand to lose more than to gain. So we are making some proposals within that agreement, that we hope will benefit the farmers by the end of the day. Because within that agreement there is a certain provision which says that a country should withdraw subsidies or domestic support to its farmers. Kenya has done that, but that is not the same case with developed countries, because developed countries are still carrying on with increasing their domestic support to their farmers. The most recent case is the US government, which just increased its support to its farmers. And by the end of the day, you find that farmers from developed countries are able to produce more cheaply than farmers from developing countries, and then they are able now to sell their products in the international markets, and products from developing countries cannot compete. Kadenge And at the moment what progress have you been able to make in this lobbying? Kiio We have been working very closely with the Ministry of Trade, where we have shared our concerns. And the government delegation that actually represents Kenya in the negotiations in this ?Agreement on Agriculture?, they have taken in our views, and it?s part of their position, the Kenyan government position to the negotiations. And the beauty of it is that Kenya is not negotiating alone; it?s part of what they call the ?African group?. So in the negotiations under WTO, whatever concerns we have raised have been tabled through that group. And the greatest achievement, I think, is a proposal on what we call the ?development box?. Under the ?Agreement on Agriculture?, there are various boxes that are given, where governments are allowed to support their farmers. And what we did is look at all those boxes, and saw that there are some issues that are just relevant to developing countries, that have not been addressed in their available boxes; there are three of them. Now we are proposing a ?development box?, where we are saying, developing countries need to be allowed to support rural development initiatives and food security issues in their countries, because those are the kind of things that we are facing. And these are not issues that are of concern really to the developed countries, but we think they are of major concern to us. Kadenge Now where would you like to see the small-scale farmer in future, as we try to battle this whole issue that is affecting them? Kiio I would like to see the farmer in the forefront, advocating for his issues. I would like to see a farmer who is engaging the government actively, both at the local level, national level and international level, and instead of I speaking for the farmers, like it has been in the past, I would like to see the farmer doing it for himself, and being engaged in every decision-making process that affects him, by the end of the day. I would also like to see a strong farmer movement in this country, because I strongly believe by the end of the day that even now we are not listening to our farmers; they contribute very much to the economy - you know that agriculture is the backbone of this country - and it is only right to involve such important people in decision-making, because they are the only ones who really know the problems they are facing. And they are the only ones who can come up with the right solutions to solve their own problems. And decisions should not be made for them, both nationally and internationally. End of track.