“Seed of Hope” Garden Launched to Raise Awareness of World Trade Justice

Christian Aid helps Senegalese farmers earn a chance of living

As the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show runs from 6th July to 11th July, a theme garden named “Seeds of Hope” will be launched at the same time by Christian Aid, as part of Christian Aid’s Trade Justice Campaign. The garden is designed to raise awareness among the public of the need for Trade Justice.

However, do not expect there to be majestic and pretty flowers in the “Seeds of Hope” garden, as all the displays will comprise simply of vegetables. The vegetables range from the most familiar ones such as onions and tomatoes, to vegetables that are almost impossible to grow in the UK, such as African or bitter aubergines, peanuts, cowpeas and okra. There will be a typical colourful West African market scene to show how the crops are sold; illustrating the competition Africans face from foreign imports. African fabrics and household goods will also be displayed.

Through these crops, Christian Aid intends to remind people about the story of Third World farmers, who are seriously exploited by the "unfair world trade rules" and forced to remain in poverty. The garden designer, Claire Whitehouse, was inspired by a trip she made to Senegal with Christian Aid in December 2003.

According to Christian Aid’s report about Senegal in West Africa, most of the farmers are under the crisis of poverty after Senegal was forced to open its market by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) despite the adequate supply of locally grown vegetables.

Since most European farmers enjoy benefits from high subsidies and advance agricultural technology, the imported vegetables to Senegal have a lower price compared to the local ones. As a result, the market in Senegal is now dominated by the increasing amounts of heavily subsidised vegetables from Europe.

One typical example is the tomato. In Southern Europe, tomato farmers are paid around £250 million euros per year in subsidies. In Senegal and many other west African nations, the small-scale family producers who grow tomatoes get no support. Instead, they often watch their tomatoes rot away in the market whilst most Senegalese buy imported European tomato paste because it is cheaper. The same phenomenon is observed for other key crops in Senegal, including carrots and potatoes.

Senegalese farmers also comment that even though these European vegetables are bigger and have a lower price, they are not as healthy as their homegrown crops, as in Senegal farmers use manure and organic fertilisers.

From the viewpoint of the World Bank and IMF, they supposed an open market in Senegal would be a solution to poverty because the Senegalese farmers would be able to get the opportunity to sell their crops abroad. However, in reality, free trade only benefits those who are in a position to compete. Poor Senegalese farmers have been quickly exposed as the losers in the new scheme.

Currently, Christian Aid’s Trade Justice Campaign is calling on the UK public to respond to the current unfair trade system. It encourages visitors to Hampton Court to write a letter to Tony Blair urging him to help plant seeds of hope for Africa. At the same time, visitors are able to offer seeds of hope to poor farmers around the world and help plant a better future for generations to come.

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