The impact of climate change on agriculture and trade is huge. This matter made up the agenda of the fourth and final regional annual meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya under the promoting agriculture, climate change and trade linkages in the region project (PACT EAC2), a couple of weeks ago. Speaking in an interview, the Assistant Director of CUTS International, Mr Julian Mukiibi, explained to Prosper Magazine’s Ismail Musa Ladu, the interlink between climate change, agriculture and trade.
What informs your participation in this space of climate change and its impact on agriculture and trade in the EAC region?
When this (PACT EAC2) project was conceived, we looked at several cross-cutting issues, including the economic potential of the EAC region. We noted that despite agriculture having both comparative and competitive advantage it is also increasingly facing climatic change challenges.
The way we practiced agriculture in Uganda and the region as whole has never changed from time immemorial. It is still entirely rain-fed. That means our people still heavily rely on weather yet issues of weather vagaries and unpredictability are becoming a permanent fixture in our calendars.
So if you are depending on agriculture as a basis to trigger value addition and industrialisation, it becomes difficult to realise gains from it on the grounds that it is prone to weather vagaries, thanks to climate change impacts.
As a result, there will also be a problem with food security efforts, and the consequences of this can be dire both socially, economically and politically!
That said, what’s your objective and how does PACT EAC2 project feed into all this?
Our objective is to look at the inter linkages between climate change, food security, and trade. How are they affecting our people, development and related policies at both the national and regional level?
We found out that the current policies were actually not addressing these issues coherently. And this was the problem. Despite the inter linkage between climate change, the environment, agriculture, food security and trade. Some polices were contradicting each other. So, we embarked on this project to clean all that up.
Therefore, through research, advocacy, networking and training activities, the project trained and improved capacity of hundreds of EAC stakeholders from governments, civil society, businesses, farming communities, women, youth, academia and media. This is in addition to building the capacity of East Africans for climate-aware, trade-driven and food security-enhancing agro-processing in their region.
At the multilateral level, we engaged stakeholders on key issues such as market access, agriculture conventions and subsidies, rules of origin, capacity to export.
Four years down the road, what are the take homes for your efforts?
The success has been tremendous, and this is according to external evaluators. In Uganda alone, we have contributed directly to policies such as the industrial development policy, the national development policy and now the trade policy under review. This has been the same case in Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya.
How would you award yourself in terms of achievements?
I will probably take seven out of 10 because we still have a few things to finish. This is not the kind work that can be achieved within two or four years. This was a very ambitious project that takes into account different sectors such as climate change, trade, agriculture, food security, international trade and negotiations. But the ground has been laid and for that.
Climate change and its related impact is already upon us, so what is the fate of the project?
We have laid the seed, the plant has grown, but can it grow into a garden or forest? This is the challenge.
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency our major partner (funder) is aware. The other thing is can our governments take this up (fund it) because it should be in their interests to do so. There will be nothing wrong by having a budget or some support from the government.
Any challenges along the way?
Funding was limited and this meant er could not create awareness. As an organisation we would like to see efforts geared towards addressing issues of climate change. Adaptation is the first thing to do.. Technology should be sensitive to the environment.
Climate change, agriculture and trade are interdependent. Then we must address issues of post-harvest losses.
Who is he? Julian Mukiibi became part of CUTS International, Geneva in 2011. His prior experiences include positions at the Uganda Revenue Authority, the Permanent Mission of Uganda in Geneva and the International Trade Centre, Geneva.
He holds a Masters in International Law and from the World Trade Institute, Bern and a Bachelor of Law from Makerere University, Uganda.