Is the UK setting up a poverty trap for African farmers?
By Abdallah el-Kurebe with Agency reports
…As African farm analysts demand answers from UK over DfID funding
The Africa Centre for Biosafety, ACB supported by Food and Water Europe and the Gaia Foundation, recently wrote to UK Ministers for International Development, Business and Environment, asking for evidence for the basis of UK overseas aid policy.
ACB had recently published a searing critique of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (known as AGRA, supported by agribusiness multinationals and the Gates Foundation).
The study found that “the scheme was ultimately not about developing lasting solutions to hunger, but imposing a cash economy on African agriculture that would inevitably result in farmers becoming dependent on the multinational corporations profiting from the hardship that would follow.”
According to ACB, “AGRA effectively seeks to institutionalise biopiracy by accessing publicly available genetic resources, patenting or imposing other intellectual property rights on the resulting seeds, and then using these industrial monoculture crops to channel African farmers into focusing on earning enough export cash to buy the privatised seed,” adding, “The AGRA model uses free inputs to develop monopoly control over outputs and expects farmers to pay for seeds they previously shared and traded, and played a major part in developing over thousands of years.”
AGRA’s model creates the foundation for the expansion of biotechnology and synthetic agricultural inputs, a combination that has allegedly proved disastrous in other parts of the world, notably among Indian cotton farmers, whose families are still suffering from the tens of thousands of suicides that have resulted from the debts incurred.
ACB advised farmers to keep their focus on feeding people, and “experience shows they can best do this by retaining control over their own resources, not permitting profit-driven multinationals to take over and concentrate power away from those doing the work.”
ACB Director, Mariam Mayet said: “We’ve seen this model too many times already, and the outcome isn’t good. Western economies are suffering hugely from the problems indebtedness causes. If the UK is serious about supporting the small farmers in Africa who are feeding the majority of the people, it needs to explain how hand-cuffing farmers to debt and an agrochemical treadmill is going to be more effective than low cost, proven approaches of looking after the soil and maintaining seed systems.
“The UK would do far more good if it was honest about the impacts IMF-imposed structural adjustment policy has already had in Africa and putting them right rather than ramping up the damage. Forcing whole countries into a cycle of providing agricultural commodities for others in order to buy inputs to produce yet more exports for the profit of external corporations smacks of recolonisation. It’s a very dangerous game to play.”
Liz Hosken of the Gaia Foundation adds that “African farmers urgently need to regain control over their traditional seed diversity, which enables them to adapt to climate instability and spread their risks,” adding, “AGRA’s strategy, a legacy of the so-called “Green Revolution”, creates farmer dependence on a few corporate-controlled seeds and agro-chemicals, which fail to meet farmers’ diverse nutritional and agricultural requirements. There is nothing ‘green’ about this approach. Concentrating power over Africa’s food supply in the hands of a few corporations defies all logic.”