World Rainforest Movement

Africa: Food sovereignty threatened by AGRA

The Gates and Rockefeller Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) initiative has landed on Africa announcing that it will help small-scale farmers go commercial. What does this mean?

Behind the millionaire funding projects lies the promotion of biotechnology in agriculture. African agriculture will be more dependent on chemicals, monocultures of hybrid seeds, and genetically modified crops.

According to Mariam Mayet, from the African Center for Biosafety,  AGRA is “a very violent package because it puts powerful toxic chemicals into Africa. It displaces and destroys local knowledge and seeds. It favors those farmers who will be able to access the system, the more powerful farmers. This will divide the African peasantry. AGRA also creates a lot of dependency and debt.” (1)

In the growing trend toward privatisation of foreign aid and the merging of the business sector with governments, AGRA becomes a useful tool for private business interests and Western governments eager to privatize Africa’s land and water for export crops, agrofuels and carbon sinks.

Foreign strategies like AGRA are grabbing forest lands that are also a space of food sovereignty for forest and forest dependent communities.

Monoculture crops for agrofuels – either jatropha in Ghana and Zambia, sugar cane in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, oil palm in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast – are encroaching on forests, threatening or already depriving local communities of their livelihoods and triggering off displacement and misery.

If the source of Africa’s wealth is privatized, African countries may loose their chance to determine their own future.

Delegates of peasants’ organizations from different African countries that share the vision of the international peasant movement, La Via Campesina, gathered in a regional meeting in Madagascar, in May 2008. They voiced their opposition to the introduction of destructive policies that are undermining domestic food production by forcing farmers to produce cash crops for transnational corporations (TNCs) and to buy their own food on the world market. “Peasant and small farmers reap no benefits from higher prices. We grow food but the benefits of the harvest often get taken out of our hands: all too often it has already [been] promised to the money lender, to the agricultural inputs’ companies, or directly to the trader or the processing unit.”(2)

The peasants’ final declaration on “Global Food Crisis” denounces that “the ongoing land-grabbing by TNCs and other speculators will expel millions more peasants from rural areas. They will end up in the mega cities where they will join the growing ranks of the hungry and the poor in the slums.” It claims that “the time for Food Sovereignty has come!” and demands the implementation of “fundamental change in the approach to food production and agricultural markets”, “long-term political commitments in order to rebuild national food economies”, absolute priority to “domestic food production in order to decrease dependency on the international market”, an intervention mechanism “to stabilize prices at a reasonable level on the international markets”, as well as “the right to implement import controls” in order to stop dumping and the respect and support at international level of “programs to support the poorest consumers, implement agrarian reform and invest in domestic, farmer- and peasant-based food production”.

Not only food systems and forests are at stake; also social systems and the whole African culture.

Article based on: (1) “AGRA – green revolution or philanthro-capitalism?”, Pambazuka News 361, http://www.pambazuka.org/en/issue/361;

(2) “Global Food Crisis”, Regional Meeting of La Via Campesina Africa, Madagascar, 14th To 17th May 2008, http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Africa/GlobalFoodCrisis.pdf