1. Senegal: Farmers fear Economic Partnership Agreements with Europe threaten their livelihoods

| January 14, 2008

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by: Idy Sy Diop, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Dakar

Senegal is engaged in a national campaign against the Economic Partnership Agreements, or EPAs, proposed by Europe to Africa. Backed by the national government, which refused to sign onto the EPAs by the December 31, 2007 deadline, several Senegalese organizations took to the streets on January 9 to protest.

Amongst the leaders of the anti-EPA fight are farmers, who feel foreign agricultural products will threaten local markets.

Aziz Badji is a farmer in Ziguinchor in the south of Senegal, a region rich in agriculture due to its fertile soils and rainy climate. Like many other farmers, Mr. Badji believes the EPAs are a serious threat to the fruit and rice he grows.

For example, he says that even without EPAs, very little of his mango production can access European markets. However, Mr. Badji says he faces stiff competition from imported European fruit.

The campaigners say the EPAs will give European farmers free access to African markets and overwhelm local production. In the case of Senegal, farmers say the list of threatened produce is long, and includes many varieties of vegetables, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, dairy products, chicken, red meat, and rice.

Baba Ngom is the Secretary General of the Cadre national de Concertation des Ruraux, a national coalition of organizations from rural areas that is also fighting the EPAs. Mr. Ngom explained that while Europe’s farming population is small, it has huge means, better equipment, and benefits from large subsidies. No Senegalese farmer can compete with this, he said. With a real farmer’s sense of humour, Mr. Ngom told Farm Radio Weekly that there can’t be a fair race between a jumping frog and a motorbike – the result is known in advance.

El Hadji Malick Sow raises cattle in Keur Massar, on the outskirts of Dakar. He has the same worries about the threat of meat and dairy imports from Europe. However, he also admits that EPAs may help lower customs taxes and therefore keep prices of certain farm equipment low.

Mamadou Ba raised the same concerns. He grows onions in the Niayes region, near Dakar, which has a high concentration of vegetable and fruit farms. The area produces about 35,000 tons of onions – about one third of Senegal’s annual production.

Mr. Ba complains that Europeans are already competing in this market, and local growers may have to start reducing their production. With EPAs, it will be much worse, he argues.