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close this bookThe Courier N 156 - March - April 1996 - Dossier: Trade in Services - Country Report : Madagascar (EC Courier, 1996, 96 p.)
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View the documentFocus on fish
View the documentA vital food source in West Africa
View the documentFisheries research for sustainability
View the documentACP-EU fishing agreements: accord or discord?
View the documentThe agri-food chain in the ACP countries

Focus on fish

the world's fishing community is often overlooked in discussions about food production and food security, so it was particularly encouraging when 95 states issued a declaration on the sustainable contribution of fisheries to food security in the world at the FAO conference held in Kyoto, Japan in December 1995. Less encouraging was the Conference's conclusion that the world's fish resources are being overexploited and that catches have been declining since 1992.

Fishing is important to the economies of many ACP countries, notably in West Africa In the three articles which follow, we look at some of the key issues facing the sector with a particular emphasis on the EU's activities in the context of its relations with developing countries,

A vital food source in West Africa

by Anthony Acheampong

Food security is defined as'access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life'. As such it covers not only the quantity of food available, but also its quality, in terms of adequate nutritional value. The definition also covers both sides of the food equation at the household level, namely food availability and the purchasing power needed to have access to it.

As a source of high quality protein, fish are vitally important in feeding the world's growing population - particularly in the developing countries. Fish supplies about 20% of animal protein globally and as much as 64% in some West African diets. Most of this is caught by artisanal fishermen and women. The table illustrates the importance of fish in the diet of many West Africans.

A nutritious and healthy food

Protein-energy malnutrition is one of the most direct manifestations of household food insecurity and is a leading cause of infant mortality in West Africa. Diseases associated with nutrient deficiencies threaten the lives and futures of the most vulnerable sections of the population. In Ghana, for example, a study by UNICEF published in 1990 revealed that more than 15% of the country's children die before their fifth birthday.

Fish can be an important element in the diet of malnourished children. They are a good quality source of easily digestible animal protein, with nutritional qualities which are comparable with, if not superior to, meat and dairy products. In the first place, they tend to be high in protein, aminoacids and polyunsaturated fats. They are also an excellent source of minerals (calcium, phosphorus and iron), vitamins (A, B1, B2 and D) and important trace elements. Because of their high Iysine content (an essential amino-acid), fish are a particularly important complement in the West African diet, which tends to include large amounts of carbohydrates.

They can also play a role in combating diseases such as xerophtalmia, which results from Vitamin A deficiency and causes permanent blindness, and in the fight against nutritional anaemia and endemic goitre caused, respectively, by a lack of dietary iron and iodine Current research also points to the positive effects of highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) in reducing cardiac ailments.

Finally, as a flavouring, fish can make monotonous food more palatable. They can thus help to improve consumption patterns and bring about better nutrition overall. When processed, preserved and cooked properly, they retain most of their high nutrient content although this can be lost with poor handling and storage.

Fish supply for 16 West African countries (1990)

An important source of income

In terms of its contribution to nutrition and food security in West Africa, the artisanal sector supplies the vast bulk of fish consumed locally. Senegal has a per capita consumption of more than 25kg per annum, which exceeds that of the USA (1 7kg). In all but one of the country's provinces, fish account for more than 75% of the protein intake of the people. Clearly, the importance of artisanal fishing to nutrition cannot be underestimated. The artisanal sector in the region supplies fresh fish for both export and local consumption as well as smoked, dried and salted fish for the local and regional markets.

Drying, smoking and salting generates considerable demand for services ranging from the transport of straw and salt to the distribution of the finished product. Equally the expansion and modernisation of the pirogue fleet has resulted in significant demand for boat building and repairs, the supply and servicing of motors and the manufacture of ice. This creates backward and forward linkages to the local economy, with artisanal fishing villages becoming thriving centres of local economic activity.

In a context of ever-decreasing levels of formal sector employment, the sector also generates considerable employment not just in the fishing itself but also in all the related activities referred to above. Senegal, for example, has some 50 000 people directly engaged in fishing and a further 200 000 working in processing, distribution and provision of services. And the expansion of employment in artisanal fisheries is no longer restricted to people from traditional fishing communities. Increasingly it provides jobs for arable farmers displaced by desert encroachment or demographic pressures. The overwheming majority of people employed in the processing and marketing of the artisanal fish catch are women.

The sector is also now making a growing contribution to foreign exchange earnings. The modernisation of the pirogue fleet has enabled it to supply a growing volume of fresh fish to export-oriented industrial companies.

Food security programmes

Decision makers in West Africa have been seeking to formulate and implement policies and programmes to enhance food security. In most of the programmes, there is a particular commitment to enhance the nutritional aspects. Ghana, for example, aims to provide all its citizens with access to an adequate and nutritionally-balanced diet at an affordable price.

The strategy involves increasing crop and animal protein production and improving marketing in order to increase the availability of food. Studies, however, have shown that in West Africa, the more vocal urban dwellers usually benefit more from government measures than their rural counterparts.

At both national and local levels, the management of food security policies requires inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms to resolve potential institutional conflicts and differences in approaches and priorities.

In the present environment of structural adjustment, involving institutional reforms and an emerging new role for government, new pressures are being placed on the management capacity of these institutions.

Structural adjustment, the changing role of government, the involvement of civil society, and issues of sustainable food production and income generation are all central policy issues. None of these can be dealt with adequately by individual countries.

Food security in West Africa is increasingly recognised as a regional issue that needs cooperation and coordination among countries to be effective.

Communication among policy makers, and between them and members of civil society and the private sector, can be a problem.

The apparent gap in understanding between researchers and policy makers hampers the adoption of policies based on the best available data and expertise. This may help to explain why the fisheries sector has not featured prominently in the food security programmes of West African countries.

Despite the difficulties facing the sector, the fisherfolk of West Africa have demonstrated that they can make a vital contribution to food security in their region. Further recognition of their productive and social role, and well targeted support for their efforts could go a long way in strengthening their
role. A.A.

Fisheries research for sustainability

by Cornelia Nauen

About five years ago, Amy Diabang and a few of her friends from a women's fish processing group in Casamance, southern Senegal, invited me for dinner in the home of their coordinator. At the end of a long day's work, the women had prepared a traditional meal and, of course, lots of deliciously fresh local fish. They were tired, but they wanted to discuss a project they intended to set up to improve the range of their businesses. They had practically all started with small loans to buy knives, buckets, headpans and the other utensils of their trade. They had also received some training through a joint project involving the French government, an NGO and the EDF, aimed at revitalising artisanal fishing in Casamance. Now, the women were planning to buy a lorry to break the transport monopoly of the established truckers. Using the limited transport available was putting a prohibitively costly price tag on their goods and preventing them from expanding their trade beyond Casamance.

At the time, I admired their courage and sympathised with their bold plan, but wondered whether it might not exceed their management capacity and leave them in debt. I am glad to say they ended up proving me wrong. Their business may not have developed quite as envisaged but they did do reasonably well and achieved a lot in the intervening period. And they had to weather a number of storms in the process: first a currency devaluation, followed by fierce competition from international factory buyers of fish. The women also challenged what they saw as unjustified local taxes and succeeded in strengthening their organisation. Amy and the many women and men working in fisheries merit our respect and deserve much more attention than has been given them in the past.

Small-scale operations dominate most of the fisheries in subSaharan Africa. Despite the fact that outsiders often brand them as 'backward', they are responsible for about 70% of Africa's total production of fish and other aquatic organisms. With little support, and often in a difficult infrastructural and institutional environment, they nevertheless succeed, demonstrating their vigour and adaptability to fast-changing conditions. For the fisherfolk, it is a competitive environment with no social security other than the family and community of which they are a part. So fishing is often complemented by other activities ranging from lifestock-raising to vegetable gardening and, of course, trading.

Why the emphasis on fisherfolk when the title of this article refers to fisheries research? One of the reasons is that those involved in conventional monitoring and statistical systems, and even in research, have had problems getting to grips with the diversity and dynamics of the sector.

Most researchers find it difficult enough to get reliable data even on industrial fishing and to analyse from that the state of the stocks. Yet at a time when fisheries is moving into the mainstream in many developing countries, notably in northwest Africa, and the crisis of overfishing in many areas has finally hit the headlines, research is all the more needed. The sector has obviously been affected by the progressive internationalisation of trade and it is clear from a number of global studies that'business as usual' - or even recourse to old remedies - is no longer an option.

Call for research initiative

It was against this background that the ACP-EU Joint Assembly adopted a wide ranging resolution on fisheries in October 1993. It referred specifically to the need for a special effort in research and the Commission reacted positively to this recommendation. Although the resolution speaks of a 'joint research centre' (Art. 66), it was clear from the preceding discussions that the drafters favoured the idea of a 'laboratory without walls'.

Stress was placed on the need for a collaborative approach which would avoid duplication and permit economies of scale through better use of existing resources. The idea of an 'ACP-EU Fisheries Research Initiative' was born.

Although the process may seem slow at times, the Initiative is now gradually getting off the ground. Following the publication of the Resolution in the quarterly EC Fisheries Cooperation Bulletin and in the EC's Official Journal, the Commission held a number of technical consultations with senior European fisheries cooperation advisers. Their advice was sought on the establishment of a consensus 'platform' which could serve as a basis for wideranging discussions with ACP representatives. The understanding was that a new type of partnership was required to face the challenges and this drew a positive response from the ACP side.

Dialogue for a new partnership

A first dialogue meeting was held in Swakopmund, Namibia, on 5-8 July 1995, bringing together representatives from Southern and Eastern Africa, the Indian Ocean countries and Europe. This was held mostly in the form of workshops to allow all those taking part to express themselves freely. The 54 participants endorsed the Initiative and made a number of very useful recommendations for future progress. They came out strongly in support of the overall goal which is: The sustainable use of fishery resources for the benefits of sector stake holders and the conservation of the aquatic resource systems supporting them. The report of the meeting, including the core document and the invited review papers on major aquatic resource systems, has been published in a new series of technical reports designed to give visibility to the Initiative. The message that emerges is that the time of donor-driven projects in this area has passed. The partnership which the authorities are being invited to subscribe to involves scientific, financial and other efforts commitment - by all sides.

The Joint Assembly and various interested international partners are being kept informed as the Initiative unfolds. To ensure a constant flow of information to a wider public, a permanent feature on the Initiative has also been introduced into the EC Fisheries Cooperation Bulletin.

Dakar meeting

At the time of writing, preparations were in full swing for the second dialogue meeting to be held in Dakar in the last week of March. This was to bring together West and Central African representatives with the EU senior fisheries cooperation advisers and the Commission. The successful formula used in the first dialogue meeting will largely be followed with each country being invited to send two senior planners representing fisheries development and fisheries and/or aquaculture research, respectively. Regional organisations with a strong fisheries mandate will also be invited to send a representative. The idea is that developers and researchers should jointly examine the issues and identify the priorities for research to help solve the most pressing problems.

It is recognised, of course, that even the existence of a very strong research base in each country would not, by itself, be enough. As in many other areas, one has to lock at the interfaces of research. There needs to be an enabling environment 'up-stream' in which relevant research can be carried out to high standards. Meanwhile, 'down-stream' there must be a delivery mechanism so that research results get fed into the planning and decision-making process in a user-friendly way. It is also clear that research cannot be carried out for long periods in isolation. Some researchers now even advocate participatory research, in which fisherfolk are active and recognised partners in the process and the results are shared with them as well as with public planners and decision makers.

A number of review papers have been commissioned on the major aquatic resource systems in the West and Central African region (see box). These have been prepared by teams of people from different countries, thereby underlining the collaborative nature of the Initiative. They are currently being sent to delegates who will attend the Dakar meeting as background information, allowing them to take stock of the achievements so far and to focus on the future. It is worth noting that a few collaborative research efforts have already been initiated around the basic ideas launched by the Initiative. Some of these are being funded by the Commission's budget for north-south research cooperation.

Two more dialogue meetings are planned, one for the Pacific and Caribbean countries and one 'wrap up' meeting, where representatives from all regions can synthesise the various recommendations and condense them into one shared reference document about the Initiative.

From talk to practice

Recognising the crucial importance of information for sustainable fisheries management, and the associated need to create an enabling environment for research in ACP countries where the sector is socially and economically important, a new 'All ACPs' project is currently being prepared for consideration by the EDF Committee. me plan is for FishBase, the worldwide electronic encyclopedia on all known finfish (some 25 000 species) to be made available, along with training and equipment, to all ACP countries. FishBase, funded largely by the Commission, has been developed by the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources Management based in Manila, in collaboration with the FAO and numerous other partners.

Its expansion into a tool for documenting aquatic biodiversity and extending management advice, combined with investment in human and institutional resources in ACP countries, will be a practical step towards building the aforementioned enabling environment for fisheries research and management. Its institutional sustainability is sought through interaction and networking at national, regional and international levels and through strong collaborative links between individuals and institutions. Close relations with other components of the Initiative will be ensured with special emphasis on making use of electronic and other linkages between ACP institutions and between ACP and EU partners. The global information society must be truly open to ACP countries to ensure their competitiveness in the future.

A programme which has the potential to develop into something equally ambitious started modestly at a workshop in Dakar in 1993. Consultations in West Africa showed there was a need for a harmonised Fisheries Information and Analysis System (FIAS). This would enable people to access databases not yet linked together on various aspects of the sector thanks to the integration provided through a powerful analytical interface. This should allow for data to be analysed in ways that are currently not possible allowing comparisons to be made of different policy options available to decision makers in both the private and public sectors.

Because of the difficulties in finding a suitable institutional framework for collaboration between the institutions involved in fisheries in each country, progress towards implementation has bean slow. Such institutions include fisheries departments, research bodies in ministries or universities, and agencies responsible for monitoring, control and surveillance, statistics, and fiscal questions. All have important roles to play in the planning and management of the sector. In the meantime, several countries have embarked on national efforts with a more limited scope in order to serve their immediate needs. Any FIAS work in West Africa should involve collaboration with these valuable efforts with a view to enhancing their usefulness further - drawing on the experience that has already been gained and sharing the relevant information with other countries.

A module of the FIAS has also been developed by the University of Warwick's Ecosystem Analysis and Management Group in collaboration with Asian partners. This programme, which is entitled SIMCOAST, allows for realistic simulations of various planning and policy options in complex situations involving the competitive use of coastal resources, both marine and land-based. Used properly, SIMCOAST demystifies some of the intricacies of integrated coastal area management and helps to streamline data requirements.

A long road ahead

At this stage, some readers might well ask whether the gap between the high-tech wizardry implied in the preceding description and Amy Diabang's problems 'at the grassroots' can successfully be bridged. In short, is all this talk about integrating databases and policy models or simulations of any practical use. A similar argument, we might recall, was advanced when personal computers appeared on the scene. Then it was suggested that researchers and others in developing countries should not be given such technology, because it would be 'unsustainable'.

Perhaps we should be wary of becoming too dependent on electronic gadgetry. But at the same time, we must recognise that proper analysis of information that is currently highly dispersed, and suitable access to the research results, are among the keys to the future sustainability of the fisheries sector. And returning to Amy and her colleagues in the artisanal fish processing business, we should acknowledge that they recognise the importance of market and other information for their businesses. That is why they already participate in the Regional Programme to Improve Postharvest Utilisation of Artisanal Fish Catches (featured in issue 147 of The Courier, September-October 1994).

Information is obviously important, but so too are the mechanisms to make good use of it. We live in a complex and fast changing world and the need for investment in human and institutional resources is greater than ever. The ACP-EU Fisheries Research Initiative has an important role to play here. C.N.

ACP-EU fishing agreements: accord or discord?

'Keep to the spirit' appeal by Joint Fisheries Committee

by Sabr El Djamil Abada

Are the fishing agreements concluded between a number of ACP countries and the European Union being respected? According to some ACP parliamentarians, bath the spirit and the letter of these agreements are frequently violated. Specifically, they say that catch conditions are not always complied with. As for the 'spirit' of the accords, namely their development cooperation objectives, the deputies take the view that little trace can be found in practice of the preliminary declarations made in the preambles to the agreements.

A report submitted by the Mauritanian parliamentarian, Sid Ahmed Ould Habott to his colleagues on the recently formed Joint Fisheries Monitoring Committee, raises a number of issues of concern. This Committee was set up following the recommendation contained in a resolution of the most recent Joint Assembly held in Brussels on 4-7 October 1995. The move was a tangible response to the deeply felt unease of a number of ACP parliamentarians who are anxious to highlight, if not perhaps the flagrant violation of the accords, 'at least their quasi-fraudulent interpretation on the part of fishermen spurred on solely by the lure of profit'. These are the actual words used by a member of parliament from Mauritius. The signs are that ACP countries and others (such as Morocco, for example) are increasingly reluctant to grant fishing rights without the guarantee of substantial benefits for their economies. There is even the temptation in some quarters to terminate the accords if they are not given a major overhaul particularly in terms of the protection of fish stocks and effects on the development of the people concerned.

In defence of the European Union, some officials refer discreetly to the fact that the agreements which are the subject of criticism were concluded in response to the concerns of the authorities in the countries in question. Their particular interest, at the time the accords were made, was in receiving direct financial compensation from the European Union in return for access rights to their fishing grounds. When asked about this matter, more than a year ago, one Commission official in Brussels involved in the fisheries sector was even more outspoken. 'It isn't fair to lecture us about the situation today. It simply reflects what was agreed at the time the accords were entered into'.

But the fact remains that a number of ACP parliamentarians, confident that they are representing the wishes of their electors, have come out against what they see as the inadequacy of the fishing agreements given the actual situation and needs of their countries and citizens. They would like to see the accords renegotiated, consolidated and even made globally applicable within the framework of development cooperation. They view such an approach as being in the best interests, not only of their own countries, but also of a proper development policy. They point out that it is in the context of such a policy that Europe is generally viewed by the people of the ACP countries.

To give a broad summary of the situation, Mr Ould Habott's report contains more than twenty points of criticism. These pertain to the management of fish stocks, the gathering of information and statistics on the impact of fishing activities, the shortcomings of research and information activities available to ACP countries which are signatories to the accords inadequate monitoring of catch conditions, poor use of finance and technical-assistance programmes, and violation of both domestic and international legislation in the fisheries field. If the law were being applied in the strict sense, any one of these breaches should have resulted in court proceedings against the offending state. But this appears not to be part of the philosophy underpinning the EU's relationships with countries from the South. These are still viewed, at least in theory, as 'partnerships', and hence, as something more like 'gentlemen's agreements'.

Given the scale and seriousness of the problems that have been identified, a number of ACP politicians and, it must be said, some of their European counterparts, are now questioning the economic, social and ecological feasibility of the agreements. The Europeans, of course, are also anxious to defend Community fishermen. Without denouncing the accords in so many words, members of the Monitoring Committee are calling for a complete reevaluation. One key concern is that they should take proper account of the ecological constraints. This is something that cannot be avoided given that the environmental balance is so fragile. There is also a desire to ensure that the agreements have a genuine, positive and quantifiable impact on the economies of the countries in question. The latter objective applies particularly to local fishermen, whose activities are largely non-industrial, and to the local communities who only take enough from the sea to satisfy their basic food requirements.

Made up of twelve members (including the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mrs Nicole P the Committee is presided over by Mr Ould Habott on behalf of the ACP countries, MrMorris, on behalf of the EP, and a representative from the Commission. It was created against the particularly tense background of the denunciation of the fishing agreement between Morocco and the European Union. The renegotiation of this agreement is likely to be difficult and it will inevitably have consequences for the future form of agreements made with the ACP countries. It is worth recalling here that Mauritania also took action, having imposed a moratorium on catches. The purpose of this was to provide a 'biological rest', allowing time for the renewal of those fish species most under threat.

The parties involved clearly have different and sometimes competing interests but what seems to be emerging is a view that the old style agreements should come to an end. Their only effect was to provide funds in return for fishing access with the money, at best, being swallowed up by the recipient state's budget. On the ACP side, more and more people are demanding access to markets and technologies in return for access to resources, with the proviso that the latter must be approached responsibly and be subject to scientific monitoring, governed by strict procedures and an international code.

For the Europeans, these demands should be seen in the context of the more far-reaching approach of EU development cooperation, particularly through better use of the instruments available under the Lomonvention, and more specifically the National Indicative Programmes. What this amounts to is telling the ACP countries that they, too, are responsible for the content and the form of these accords.

In Mr Habits view, 'it is the future that is important.' He stresses: 'We want these fishing agreements to be a development tool for our peoples, beginning with the implementation of a balanced and mutually profitable partnership but with absolute respect for the ecological balance which is of concern to everyone.' This, he says 'involves reasonable exploitation of resources to ensure that species are protected, the collection of reliable data on the impact of fishing activities, both in terms of the ea and economically speaking (food, employment, income for local fishermen), and the development of local catch capabilities and even industrial processing installations.'

He continues: 'The ACP countries must be able to manage this vital economic sector more efficiently. Among the provisions to be adapted, we would suggest more decisive regional cooperation in monitoring and research, through, for example, the creation of regional training centres and the setting-up of research and development programmes for conservation.'

'Nowadays, it is no longer possible to continue in the same direction as before. We must firstly ensure that the agreements we have signed are genuinely being complied with. To that end, as parliamentarians and therefore representatives of our electors, transparency must be paramount. For example ships' logs must be kept correctly, and scientific monitors must be able to board ships'.

'Globally speaking, the adapted agreements must take account of non-industrial fishing and ancillary activities, which are vital to populations as a whole and to village communities.' He lays particular stress on 'economic activities carried on by women who play a central role in our countries.'

Mr Habott concludes: 'At a purely commercial level, we are actively seeking partnerships to promote development within our countries. These could be created with the support of the Centre for the Development of Industry (CDI) and/or the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), as well as with assistance from the European Investment Bank. We have capabilities in this field and we intend to put them to good use. We also support worldwide efforts, based on international agreements, to regulate the management of fish stocks and conserve the marine environment.'

Although it is clear that the mere establishment of a Monitoring Committee cannot meet all the challenges which the ACP countries and, above all, their populations, are faced with, to entrust management of fish stocks only to European fishermen (together with the Russians, Japanese and Koreans) is suicidal both economically and ecologically speaking. Assuming that the Committee can increase awareness among the general public in both Europe and the ACP countries, and amongst political leaders, then the initiative deserves to be welcomed. S.E.D.A.

The agri-food chain in the ACP countries

Annual meeting of the ACP/EU economic and social partners

Representatives of the ACP/EU economic and social interest groups held their annual meeting in Brussels on 6 8 December. They focused on ways of increasing and improving food production in ACP countries, and there was widespread agreement that something needs to be done to strengthen the food chain system; from the time the food is produced on the farm to the point at which it is consumed.

The general consensus was that farmers in the developing countries did not have a level playing field, and were therefore unable to compete with their developed country counterparts. They lacked the modern technology which would help them become efficient food producers, and did not receive state subsidies. In developed countries, it was noted, agriculture makes a relatively small contribution to the overall economy but productivity levels are very high. In ACP countries, the reverse is the case.

The meeting heard how the problem of food production was particularly acute in Africa. In the past two and a half decades, the total amount of food produced on the continent has increased but it has failed to match population growth. The result has been a long-term decline in per capita food output. Dependence on imports is high and increasing. And this growth in imports obviously cannot be associated with positive economic developments - too much of the continent is suffering from chronic poverty and associated food shortages. Indeed, much of the increase is accounted for by food aid supplied by donors to help tackle emergencies.

Threat from damping

Dumping was seen by a number of speakers as a widespread problem. It was suggested that farmers in developing countries were not able to become price competitive because of restrictions placed on them by the IMF through the various structural adjustment programmes (SAPs). Peter King of the Jamaican Agricultural Society spearheaded a resolution on dumping which was subsequently included in the final declaration adopted by the meeting. In this text, the participants recognised 'that the practice of dumping constitutes a grave threat to ACP efforts to improve agricultural production, marketing and the efficiency of the agrifood chain by bankrupting enterprises and causing job losses.' They went on to recommend the establishment of a data bank of dumping incidents, arranged by product and by ACP State, so that an analysis could be made of dumping trends. The resolution also recommended the creation of a pool of experts that ACP States could consult to assemble evidence on the existence of dumping. The aim here would be to gather sufficient information to allow action to be instituted in acordance with the provisions of the World Trade Organisation, as well as to help in capacity-building.

Mention was also made of the need for developing countries to create a solid infrastructure if they are to sustain a progressive food production system. It was recognised that governments had a role to play in this area in providing suitable roads to transport goods on time, a steady supply of electricity and reliable access to water. These are seen as critical aspects which need to be put in place in order to improve production.

The farmer is obviously a key participant in the food chain. Representatives expressed the view that not enough attention was being paid to peasant farmers in particular. In the first instance, they cultivate crops and rear animals for their own subsistence needs and they then sell their surpluses. The meeting agreed that action was needed to help these producers address the many problems they face. It was also important for their opinions and recommendations to be sought before programmes were initiated. The bottom line is that if they receive help, they will be in a better position to help others.

Another problem raised was the fact that ACP countries often did not benefit from the food produced by their commercial and plantation farmers, which is sent for export after processing. The result was that local people did not have access to what was being grown locally. The situation was neatly summarised by the Rapporteur, Mr Kabuga: 'They are consuming what they do not produce and producing what they do not consume.'

Unease over food aid

A number of representatives expressed unease about the present food aid system. It was pointed out that such aid tends only to be given in times of emergency, when the problem has reached a critical stage. It does nothing to prevent the crisis from arising in the first place. It was generally agreed that food aid should take a more 'developmental' form, with a view to ensuring food security and developing the agricultural sector. In reply to this point, a Commission representative acknowledged that food aid operations were far from perfect and a lot still had to be done.

Turning to the role of the private sector, speakers stressed that this should not be taken for granted, and should be looked at more closely. Historically, farmers' cooperatives and associations have played a leading role in championing and protecting producer interests In many ACP countries these bodies were initially state-sponsored because peasant farmers lacked the means to articulate their concerns. Most of the cooperatives have now been dismantled, due to the implementation of SAPs. A Danish representative pointed out that in his own country, cooperative played a key role in improving food production, assisting farmers in areas were they faced difficulties. He recommended that ACP delegates should seriously consider reinforcing the role of cooperatives in their respective countries.

Decentralised cooperation

Decentralised cooperation was another issue to come under scrutiny at the meeting in the context of the overall theme of food production. Five new articles on this subject (251a-251e) have been added to the Fourth Lomonvention as a result of the mid-term review process, and on the first day, a Commission representative explained the objectives that lay behind the new approach.

This form of cooperation is viewed as a further step towards enhancing the involvement of those who are directly affected by development programmes. The idea is to establish direct links with local representative bodies and to stimulate their capacity to design and implement development initiatives. A key element is the direct participation of the population groups concerned. These include local authorities and representatives of local interests such as non-governmental organisations, trade unions and cooperatives. All are seen as having a role to play in the advancement of food production in their regions. The Courier