September 30, 2001


Interview with AARDO Secretary General Bahar Munip

RECA seminar promoting better understanding of Multi-functionality of agriculture

Secretary General Bahar Mnip of the Afro-Asian Rural Development Organ ization (with a membership of 30 countries, based in India), who attended the 23rd RECA seminar, visited JA Zenchu after the seminar, where he was interviewed by The Nihon Nogyo Shimbun (Japan Agricultural Newspaper). He told the paper that developing nations are getting increasingly concerned about WTO farm trade negotiations. He said the RECA seminar served to deepen the understanding of Asian and African countries toward Japan's call for the recognition of agriculture's multilateral functions. Following is the gist of the interview:

What was the purpose of the RECA seminar?

AARDO member nations have become seriously concerned about WTO farm talks, especially their impact on developing countries. But developing countries with poor access to information are in the dark about points at issue and where such talks might lead to. That's why AARDO asked JA Zenchu and IDACA to give the seminar on the WTO.

What were the results of the seminar?
Seventeen representatives from 12 countries participated in the seminar. Among them were high-ranking government officials who are involved in WTO negotiations. They discussed food security and multilateral functions of agriculture, as well as the conditions of agriculture in their respective countries. None of the participating countries have had as much recognition as Japan of agriculture's role in widespread spheres. But participants in the seminar have become able to share the information about agriculture's immense and immeasurable value, which goes beyond the raising of crops to the preservation of culture, conservation of exquisite natural scenery and the environment. Countries may have different approaches to the issue depending on the extent of their economic development, but I believe that the participants now understand better that developed and developing countries share values in many ways.

What should the participating countries do to form a consensus of opinion toward WTO farm trade talks?
This time, the participants made a study visit to a rural area in Yamaguchi Prefecture. There we were deeply impressed by farming families, who were determined to remain farmers and protect their rural community from being overrun by industrialization. The families have reminded us agriculture's immeasurable importance in many spheres of life. Apart from this issue, developing countries have much to improve agricultural infrastructures, including irrigation facilities, and facilitate organization of farmers. They are in need of aid from industrialized countries, especially in the development of human resources, or development of cooperative leaders, which is an urgent problem for the countries.