Frédéric Boyenga-Bofala
The End Of The Great Lakes Crisis

A Common Agricultural Policy of the Alliance of
Great Lakes States

The Alliance Common Market would extend to agriculture and trade in agricultural products. In fact, for a variety of reasons, it would seem impossible to leave agriculture out of the Great Lakes integration process that I am proposing we put in motion. This amounts to a deliberate political and, in particular, economic choice, based on a number of factors in conformity with the Geneva Agreement on what has become known as the 'rule of essential trade'. This must mean that the members of the regional economic union in the making must include therein almost all economic sectors.

The creation of a common agricultural policy for Member States would contribute to the food self-sufficiency of the Alliance. It would also be a question of transforming agriculture into a modern and competitive economic sector; whereby this could be done by supporting the necessary changes (mergers, expansion of farm size, greater specialization). And most importantly, it would be necessary to raise the standard of living of an agricultural or peasant population, which is still very large and the income of which is very low or even non-existent. Farmers and traditional peasants could not fail to benefit from a common agricultural market, provided at least that it is an organised one. This involves the conception that agriculture must not be incorporated in the common market of the Alliance without a proactive support policy enabling it, firstly, to preserve its identity in human and social terms, and secondly, to develop in purely economic terms. A common agricultural policy for all Member States must accompany an Alliance-wide common market for agricultural products. This means that the rules designed for the creation of the common market must also be made to apply to agricultural products; and also, in particular, the customs union and the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. And agricultural products must be taken to mean products originating from the soil, livestock and fisheries, as well as other products from any first-stage processing directly related to these products.

This agricultural policy would meet a dual requirement: increasing agricultural production and improving the conditions of life and work for the farmers of Alliance Member States. This would mostly involve modernizing agriculture and providing a response to a general rural exodus, a process that is currently accelerating. The goal would be to increase production not only for domestic needs but also in order to increase exports. Specifically, this means the need to develop regional agriculture that is essentially family and small farmer-based, and extensive; with the aim being to make it more competitive. To this would be added agricultural policy and development of rural areas in the context of an accelerated rural exodus, desertification of rural areas, abandonment of rural skills and trades and a drop in the number of farms resulting from the crisis in the agricultural sector in the Great Lakes region. All this is due in turn to the state of war that has existed in eastern Congo for the past seventeen years.

The objectives of such a common agricultural policy for the Alliance: increased productivity, stabilisation of markets, security of supply, raising the standard of living for the agricultural community, modernization of rural areas, professionalization of agriculture in general, increased individual productivity through technical aids, the organisation of production, flow and marketing of products at reasonably remunerative prices and finally, the creation of mechanisms consisting of joint market organisations for each agricultural product.

Increasing productivity would be the backbone of the Alliance's agricultural policy. The ways of achieving this goal: the development of technical progress, the rational development of production, optimum utilization of the factors of production, including labour. Increased production would not be an end in itself but merely a means to improve productivity. That is why I stress the "rational" character of the development of production. My goal is a rational increase in agricultural production, which at the time of writing is still very inadequate. It is essential to increase production if the food vulnerability of Great Lakes states is to be reduced. The same applies to technical progress. Currently, overall, farming in all the countries of the Great Lakes - where the model of the small family farm and peasant often predominates - remains at a very basic level in technical terms. Modernization and mechanization efforts are essential. But in a region where the issue of soil fertility does not arise, a rational increase in production would not require greater use of intermediate products - such as fertilizers and pesticides, which certainly permit improved soil yields but harm the environment at the same time.

Thus, taking into account environmental concerns need not be an obstacle to the creation of an Alliance agricultural policy   quite the contrary, in fact. The evils of modern production techniques that sacrifice the nature and quality of the soil in the name of economic efficiency would be taken into account in the implementation of such an Alliance agricultural policy.

I advocate better training for farmers the general mechanization of labour, although also prohibition of the use of chemicals such as fertilizers: all of this would have the effect of developing an agriculture that, in biological and ecological terms, would be respectful of our region's rich environmental heritage.

The Alliance agricultural policy would aim to provide a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, in particular by increasing the individual earnings of all those working in agriculture. It would also be important to stabilize markets if we are to achieve the other objectives of this agricultural policy, particularly its social objectives: how to ensure a fair income for producers without general stability and how to offer reasonable prices to consumers in relation to markets that are subject to erratic fluctuations owing to the disorganisation of production, not to mention the disorganisation of agricultural commerce and consumers in general?

Funding for this Alliance agricultural policy might be provided by creating a Guidance and Guarantee Fund, which would be operated on the basis of both state contributions and its own resources, as obtained from VAT on agricultural products.