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Make a big noise to save the poor; As the World Trade Organisation meets this week, Coldplay's CHRIS MARTIN calls on the West to make trade fair.

Byline: CHRIS MARTIN

NYABA Atampugre is 18. He makes his living growing tomatoes on a small patch of cracked, dry earth near Nyariga in Ghana's poor rural north.

He's a good-looking guy, dressed in a ragged adidas tracksuit, bending to work with a crude stick and stone hoe.

He told me that the tomato farmers used to sell their crops to a government-owned canning factory for a reasonable price.

Now the factory is closed and the local markets are full of cheap tinned Italian tomatoes.

Nyaba knew nothing about subsidies and he couldn't see how farmers in Europe could sell their produce so cheap.

But he knew these cut-price imports would probably mean he'd have to sell his crop for little more than he'd paid out for seeds and fertiliser.

If he got married, this patch would be all he had to support his family. It would have to pay for school fees, healthcare, fuel and water and any food they couldn't grow themselves.

But he can't imagine ever being able to wed. Understandably, he is worried about the future.

Travelling with Oxfam to Ghana, Haiti, Mexico and the Dominican Republic over the past few years, I've met lots of people like Nyaba.

Hungry children in Haiti, the same age as my younger brothers and sisters, playing with kites made of old plastic bags.

Mescardin Cardere, a Haitian farmer blind for 20 years for the want of a routine cataract operation, feeling his way round coffee bushes on his small patch of land.

Francois Lesuto, a farmer the same age as me finding it impossible to sell his crop because of the cheap surplus American rice flooding local markets.

I TOOK a picture of this imported rice being sold in a market in Ghana.

I think I can safely say I'm the only person to have travelled for a year with a photo of eight bags of rice on my mobile.

In January I visited the vast, empty Weiga valleys, huge natural basins that farmers told me could supply Ghana with rice if only they had the seeds, tractors and irrigation they needed.

These images are etched on my brain like tattoos. I'll never forget them. They're why I'll keep talking about Fair Trade.

So when we walked onstage at Live8, the person uppermost in my mind was John Karibo, a charismatic community leader from Nyariga.

He was my age and we connected instantly, talking music and finding we shared a sense of humour. When some women farmers sang, we had a bit of a dance.

The difficulties he was facing were huge. If Bob Geldof had been chief of that village, he'd be struggling to make an impact. And if John had been born here, he'd already be a political star.

Meeting him made me all the more aware of how everything is stacked in my favour, not in his. It's so sad that geography can make such a difference.

At Live8, the other person on my mind was of course my daughter Apple, there with my wife Gwyneth Paltrow.

We've fought to let her grow up with as much privacy as possible, so I normally hate her being photographed.

But Live8 was special and it felt right she was there. I thought she'd be angry later on if we hadn't taken her. After all, it's her generation who will inherit all these problems.

Was Live8 worth it? To me, the concert was like a very fast opening sprint on a marathon.

We've come to expect instant solutions, but it took a long time to get the world in this mess and it's not going to be fixed overnight.

Live8 did its job in making more people aware of the G8 meeting, and it helped bring trade and aid up the agenda. Hopefully at the World Trade Organisation this week in Hong Kong we'll see more progress. Especially on food dumping, which is so unnecessary.

Of course we want to protect our own farmers. But we need to stop paying them to produce more than we need, then dumping our leftovers on developing countries.

It's using our taxes to destroy livelihoods, and none of us really want that.

It's easy to be cynical, and when you see this this kind of poverty TV it almost seems unreal.

But when you're there and see it for yourself, as I did, when you realise how much you have in common with people, it hits you like a pneumatic hammer.

And I really believe things can be changed.

In Haiti, I met farmers whose friends had been killed fighting for their rights. In Ghana, I was at the first meeting of the Peasant Farmers Association, a group giving the people a voice.

Everywhere in the West we've travelled this year, we've met people putting pressure on politicians and businesses to make the changes needed to make poverty history.

Alone, none of us make much impact. But together, we can make a very big noise.

-TO sign The Big Noise petition and make your voice heard, go to www.maketradefair.org Also visit www.makepovertyhistory.org

CAPTION(S):

HARMONY: Chris in Ghana; LIVE8: Gwyneth and Apple
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 15, 2005
Words:863
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