News / Africa

Trade Barriers Impede Food Security

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

When the food crisis began several years ago, with soaring prices and supply shortages, governments agreed to invest much more in agriculture. And with predictions of a global population of nine billion by 2050, the need for more food has become increasingly urgent. But some say food security cannot be achieved unless trade barriers are removed.

The Global Harvest Initiative says improving food and agricultural trade flows in the coming decades will help counter the effects of changing weather patterns, population shifts and limited natural resources. The initiative began in 2009 with a partnership of big business, including Archer Daniels Midland Company, DuPont, John Deere and Monsanto.

Trade Barriers Impede Food Security
Trade Barriers Impede Food Security

“Trade is actually very closely linked to global hunger and food security. And I think that it’s something that needs to be talked about more and more. The way that it really plays in is that markets are a big part of either the problem or the solution in addressing hunger and food security. Not only are they really the way that food moves from places of supply to places of demand, but they also play a big role in the decisions that farmers make about how much they should produce and what they should produce and when,” said Katrin Kuhlman, director of TransFarm Africa, also a member of the Global Harvest initiative.

TransFarm Africa is part of the Aspen Institute, which says its core mission is to foster enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Kuhlman said dropping trade barriers opens markets and gives farmers more incentives to produce.

“Farmers, just like any other business people, will decide what to produce based on what they see the market to be. And if they don’t see that the market is open they won’t produce as much. So, it factors really directly into productivity as well. So it’s not only the channel to move things back and forth, but it’s also impacting what farmers will actually decide to produce,” she said.

Easier said than done

But negotiating trade deals is often difficult. The Doha Round of World Trade Organization trade talks began in 2001. The goal is to lower trade barriers, but progress has been slow. There are major differences between rich and developing nations, including the use of agricultural subsidies.

Kuhlman says a different approach may be needed to resolve some of those differences.

“Part of what we need to do is sort of take ourselves back to the barriers themselves and to the investments and opportunities that those barriers are impeding. And if we do that instead of sometimes starting with the big negotiating round or the big agreement, I think that we’ll find that we can come up with different solutions for addressing the barriers and more practical and tangible ways that we can get at them,” she said.

She added that a demand-driven approach can help remove trade barriers.

“Very often the process itself will not work unless you have a way to test it. So countries will put in place different laws and regulations, but those don’t really come to life until you have an actual business that’s going in and saying here’s what we’re trying to do. We have this opportunity that’s being impacted by this barrier and we need to find a way to remove it. And then, I think, you see things start to change,” said Kuhlman.

This means possibly removing trade barriers on a case-by-case basis.

Own backyard

The head of TransFarm Africa said developing nations should not only take part in global talks, but also take a closer look at any trade barriers in their own markets.

In places like sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the market that’s really most critical in some ways is the regional market. Countries need to do things within their own borders to remove barriers to trade. But the regional markets are so important in sub-Saharan Africa and without finding ways to really facilitate trade in those regional markets, looking ahead to global markets is almost 10 steps removed. But really focusing on things regionally will open up trade all along the chain,” she said.

At the same time, Kuhlman said if rich nations are serious about dealing with food security, they also need to make their markets as open as possible to developing nations.

How important achieving food security?

“I don’t think that there’s a way to do it without addressing barriers to markets and without making trade flow more freely. And I think that we really are at a stage right now where we need to think very, very seriously about how to do this,” she said.

Business, she said, should be part of the process.

In April, World Trade Organization members pledged to find a way out of the trade talks deadlock. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told members to think hard about “the consequences of throwing away ten years of solid multilateral work.” He called on members to “use the upcoming weeks to talk to each other and build bridges." Lamy is scheduled to give an update on the situation on May 31.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs