Farmers in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda will be helped to access overseas markets to sell their produce.
This was announced by the Great Lakes Network (GRATERS-GL), a regional organisation of farmers from the three countries at a workshop in Kayonza District on Wednesday.
The seven-day workshop, according to Leo Ndikunkiko, GRATERS-GL Executive Secretary, is aimed at reviewing the strength of farmers as well as ensuring that they participate in national and international commercial debates.
The workshop attracted at least 30 members from the three countries.
Ndikunkiko, from Burundi, told The New Times that the civil society has the capacity to influence agricultural policies in favour of smallholder farmers.
“Stakeholders from the three countries are discussing the way forward to strengthen member states in commercial negotiations. There are challenges in trade dealings with Europe, Asia and the US. We want to link the farmers with European markets,” he said.
Ndikunkiko further said GRATERS-GL helps farmers to solve the challenges they encounter while trading with Europe.
“We want to strengthen the trade networks. There are challenges of trade especially when dealing with our European partners,” Ndikunyiko said.
Dismas Baradandikanya, an agriculture expert, said African countries should review their policies, in favour of international trade.
Baradandikanya said policies and politics in Africa are to blame for the poor international trade links, noting that the continent relies on traditional cash crops. He said farmers need training in market research.
“We need to review our politics as Africans. Quality and not quantity will increase our bargaining power,” he said.
John Bideri, the Director of Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative (RWARRI), said the workshop was timely since it addressed the issue of market failures.
“Most peasant farmers are not linked to markets for many reasons. We want them to use a combination of agricultural growth and links to markets to raise their incomes,” he said.
Bideri, however, said farmers shouldn’t just focus on European markets but think about regional trade as well.