(Bp Tim Dakin: Diocese of Winchester photo)
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for securing this debate. With Malawi on the brink of a major humanitarian crisis, there is no better time to highlight the challenges facing Africa today. I declare an interest as the chair of a small charity supporting education and development in Africa.
The welfare of the east African nations is of particular importance to me. I was born in Tanzania and spent some of my teenage years in Kenya. In the 1990s, I was the principal of a small college in Nairobi””indeed, we still keep a home situated on an old coffee farm near Thika. Through this previous experience and from regular visits, I have observed the finely balanced life which Kenyan agricultural workers live. Smallholdings are a significant element in the agricultural sector of Kenya. Many city dwellers also have a smallholding upcountry. A severe drought might mean the end of their children’s education. It may also result in families being unable to afford even the most basic medicines or in workers having to resort to desperate means of generating income to support their families.
The economic partnership agreements that we discuss today may have as much of an impact on the livelihoods of east African smallholders as a bumper harvest or a deadly drought. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, a sample of the difficulties caused by EPAs. I want to highlight two issues which could specifically affect the smallholder in Africa.