Ecofair Trade Ambassadors
13/07/2011

EcoFair Trade Ambassadors. Picture: Glopolis
 

Together with our ambassadors from Burkina Faso, India, Kenya and the Philippines we want to make the public and the policy-makers in the EU aware of the appalling impacts of trade agreements and EU agricultural policy and show them alternatives.

Burkina Faso

Korotoumou Gariko, born in 1956, Korotoumou Gariko is a farmer with eighteen dairy cattle and a small dairy. She is president of the National Union of Mini-Dairies. "The EU subsidises its milk so heavily that they can supply milk powder more cheaply than we can," complains Gariko. "This sort of dumping is destroying our milk sector and taking my small business with it as well." As in African countries there is no social system comparable with those in the EU, many people would lose their livelihood because of this, she explains, declaring, "Food is the engine of life and should not be subordinated to free trade". Gariko is proud of the fact that eighty percent of the population has been able to produce their own food until now. "The smallholders in Burkina Faso and in the neighbouring countries are demanding a no to Economic Partnership Agreements," she says, "We demonstrated on the streets of the capital Ouagadougou against the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, otherwise our government would have signed long ago".

Maurice Oudet, who was born in Paris in 1944, is a missionary in Africa. He has lived in Burkina Faso since 1972, has written case studies on agricultural economics, and supports the rural community. He has been studying the impacts of trade agreements since the 2001 cotton crisis, when subsidised American cotton drove global market prices to rock-bottom. Growers in Burkina Faso could not sell their products, or had to sell at below production cost. In a joint statement with the president of the National Union of Cotton Producers and his counterparts in Mali and Benin, Oudet demanded a ruling against US subsidies from the dispute settlement body of the World Trade Organization. "That was the beginning of a long struggle that is still going on," says the missionary, who opposes the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. "Our countries would lose important tax revenues and our market would be flooded with European goods," continues Oudet, who is confident that the people of Burkina Faso still live by the motto of former President Sankara: "Produce what you want with the means available to you". "Today," says Oudet, "that is known as food sovereignty".


India

Ranja Sengupta, born in 1968, is an economist. She is currently working as a research consultant for the non-governmental organisation Third World Network and is looking in particular at the impacts of the EU-India Free Trade Agreement. "EU exports are threatening not only farmers’ livelihoods, but also small local industries that process the agricultural products into foods," says a worried Sengupta. She is counting on the traditionally strong opposition from various stakeholders who will be losing out, and who had also started to protest against India’s membership of the WTO, amongst other things. She hopes that this opposition will succeed in halting the unfair trade agreement and in initiating a development oriented impact assessment. "The food crisis was a lesson to the world that local supply
structures must be maintained to provide food security for all".

Sagari R. Ramdas, born in 1964, is a veterinarian. In 1995, together with Nitya Ghotge, she founded the NGO Anthra, of which she is now co-director. Anthra is working with Adivasis (the indigenous Indian peoples), landless groups, small-scale farmers and pastoralists in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to campaign for food sovereignty. "Small traders in particular will suffer under the free trade agreement, because the big supermarket chains want to conquer the Indian market and force them out of business," Ramdas says with concern. She is encouraged by the number of village councils that have already signed declarations opposing the trade agreement with the EU.

Nitya Ghotge, born in 1964, Nitya Ghotge is a veterinarian and the co-founder of Anthra. As co-director she leads the work in the Indian state of Maharashtra. “Even though fair distribution has often been a problem, in the first forty
years of independence India was self-sufficient in food,” says Ghotge. “Since we joined the global market economy poverty and hunger have increased in many Indian regions, while only a few Indians can afford specialities from distant countries.” Through her organisation she supports village seed banks to promote the planting of local varieties – for example, millet – and so reduce the smallholders’ dependency on agribusiness.


Kenya

Hellen Yego, born in 1956, is a farmer and works with NGOMA, the producers’ union. She was involved in starting the farming organisation’s campaigns against the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and the ACP states (including Kenya). Since the early 1990s she has been active in her opposition to the impacts of the trade policy on Kenya’s small-scale farmers. In 1993 the farmers were unable to sell their crop. The government agency for cereal trade would no longer buy it up – as it always had before – at a guaranteed minimum price. "Instead the government told the farmers to sell their crop elsewhere; after all, they said, the market must be liberalised," Yego explains. "The farmers were desperate and didn’t know what to do". After that cereal production in Kenya fell sharply, leading to food shortages. Helen Yego is apprehensive: "The EPA in its present form will aggravate the situation further and eventually destroy the fragile economic structure of East African countries".

Andrew Charles Odete, born in 1978, is a human rights lawyer and coordinates trade, industry and human rights at the Kenya HumaRights Commission (KHRC), a Kenyan non-governmental organisation. "Agriculture is the backbone of the Kenyan economy," says Odete, who has already represented many communities defending their land rights against large landowners. "Owning a piece of land that can be utilised for agricultural production is an important route out of poverty," he explains. But if a free trade agreement allows cheep imports from the EU to come in, farmers will have great difficulties to sell the crops produced on this land. "Local production would collapse, and our food supply would become to a great extent dependent on imports," fears the lawyer, whose organisation published a preliminary assessment of the impacts of the EPA in 2010. Thanks to protests by farming organisations and the KHRC, negotiations on concluding the EPA are currently on hold.


Philippines

Ruth F. Salditos, born in 1960, is a nutritionist and is in charge of a Fair Trade project on the island of Panay. It produces banana chips and raw cane sugar, some of which goes to be sold in European Fair Trade shops. "As a nutritionist I worked mainly with impoverished women in my community," Salditos says. "That made me realise that the right to food is a highly political issue". This is because, since joining the WTO, the Philippines is no longer able to feed its people from its own farming industry. Moreover she fears that with the financial crisis in Europe the demand for fairly traded exports from the Philippines will fall as well. "The 500 families who work in our project are already not earning enough to cover their basic needs." With her organisation Salditos is campaigning for comprehensive land reform, so that more people can farm their own land and thus secure their livelihoods through self-sufficiency.

Arze Glipo, born in 1963, is a development scientist and coordinator of the Asia Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty (APNFS), to which women’s, consumer and farming organisations from nine countries are affiliated. The focus of their work is to analyse the social and economic impact of trade agreements and credit schemes run by international organisations. "Most of all they have undermined our countries’
ability to act to protect our own farming," Glipo explains. "After we joined the WTO in the mid-1990s many rice growers in my home region had to give up, because the market price for their rice no longer covered the cost of production and loan repayments". She thinks that the new agreement with the EU will make the situation for smallholders and poultry farmers even worse. The alternative is "food sovereignty", which means that the people of the Philippines should have the freedom to be able to decide about their own food. "We at APNFS will be exerting a lot of pressure on governments and international institutions to make the global commodities market more democratic. Only then can the people have food security".