The article below from SciDev.net focuses on the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) which has been centre stage this week at the US-sponsored Bakino Fasa conference where the US signed a memorandum of understanding with AATF to 'share and disseminate agricultural technologies' for sub-Saharan Africa.
The article says, "Funding for the initiative comes from the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development and the UK Department for International Development."
All three are, of course, known for their big financial support for GM projets - DfID alone is said to have quietly sunk over 13 million pounds into such projects - but this is also only part of the story. SciDev.net is basing itself on the information put out by AATF and the US Dept of State whih only mentions these funders but AATF's full and undisclosed lkist of backers is said to includeMonsanto, Dupont, Dow Agro Sciences and Syngenta - see the GM WATCH profile of AATF: http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=163&page=A
Notice also the dog that didn't bark. Although SciDev.net treports an AATF tie up with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, there is no mention of the much lauded Monsanto-USAID GM sweet potato projet that is now known to have failed. Instead the focus is on the Syngenta Foundation, which as the development specialist Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK, has noted, "has a poor record of supporting client-driven public agricultural research".
DeGrassi says of the GM maize projet mentioned here: "other less generously funded projects have used a range of [non-GM] techniques that have already proved capable of protecting against stem borers in farmers fields. Some of these methods, which have been shown to reduce borers to negligible levels, have been tested in farmers' fields and are already being adopted."
DeGrassi's over all conclusion on the Syngenta Foundation project which AATF is supporting, and others like it, is that 'while genetic modification may constitute a novel tool, in Africa it is a relatively ineffective and expensive one Cash-strapped scientists working with poor farmers in Africa might well regard genetic modification as a waste of time and money. The evidence assembled here supports the view of a South African commentator: "There are better ways to feed Africa than GM crops." ' http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=179&page=S
1.Small-scale farmers get technology boost in Africa
2.African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) GM WATCH profile
1.Small-scale farmers get technology boost in Africa
18 June 2004
[NAIROBI] Access by Small-scale farmers in Africa to agriculture technology was given a boost this week when Kenya's agriculture minister Kipruto Arap Kirwa officially launched the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).
The foundation is a public-private partnership that aims to boost incomes and food security for the rural poor in sub-Saharan Africa by promoting both classical plant breeding approaches and novel genetic modification approaches.
The AATF hopes in particular to overcome the high costs and restrictions imposed by intellectual property rights that act as barriers to African farmers' adoption of new technology. It will do this by seeking to obtain royalty-free licenses from producers of agricultural technologies, and to adapt such technologies to African needs.
AATF was formed last year after consultations between Africa scientists and their counterparts in Europe and America. The foundation's official opening follows the recent appointment of its first executive director Mpoko Bokanga, who assumed office this week. He joins AATF from the Regional Industrial Development Centre of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Abuja, Nigeria.
"The African Agricultural Technology Foundation will work with you all, not to duplicate the good work that is being done, but to facilitate [new] partnerships and innovative linkages, and bring technologies that increase productivity within the reach of African farmers," Bokanga told the launch audience.
Bokanga said the foundation's top priorities included combating 'witch weed'. The pest is estimated to cause US$7 billion of crop damage in Africa each year, depriving over one million of food, and reducing the income of many small-scale farmers.
The organisation is also working with the Mexico-based International Research Center for Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT), the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the Syngenta Foundation to introduce a variety of maize resistant to the stem borer - a major insect pest.
Other projects include enhancement of vitamin A in maize to counter nutritional problems of dietary vitamin deficiency and an initiative to increase cowpea productivity in sub-Saharan Africa.
Funding for the initiative comes from the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development and the UK Department for International Development.
2.African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)
GM WATCH profile
The Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) was formed in July 2002 under the direction of Eugene Terry, its Implementing Director.In April 2004 Mpoko Bokanga was appointed AATF's first Executive Director with Eugene Terry, who was previously an agricultural Advisor with the World Bank in Washington DC, continuing as Implementing Director.
According to its website (in 2003), 'The AATF is a new and unique public-private partnership designed to remove many of the barriers that have prevented smallholder farmers in Africa from gaining access to existing agricultural technologies that could help relieve food insecurity and alleviate poverty.'
The rice industry website Oryza.com explained the purpose of AATF in more straightforward terms, 'The goal of the AATF will be to work with governments, companies, non-governmental organizations, and research centers to negotiate the sales rights of genetically modified crops and bring new agricultural technologies to the African market.' And unlike AATF's website which only lists as donnors USAID, the Rockefeller Foundation and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development , which are said to have 'provided funding for the startup of AATF', Oryza.com also lists the following biotechnology corporations: Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Agro Sciences and Syngenta.(Africa: Group to Promote GMO Sales, Oryza.com )
The website also states that, 'The AATF will be based in Africa and will be led, managed and directed by Africans.'AATF's board is chaired by Jennifer Thompson, a scientist and fervent GM supporter who came to prominence as part of South Africa's regulatory body SAGENE, originally established under South Africa's apartheid regime. Thompson is also on the board of the biotech-industry backed lobby groups ISAAA and AfricaBio.
In June 2004 Mpoko Bokanga of AATF and J.B. Penn, U.S. under secretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services, signed a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the U.S. and AATF in which they agreed to work together to 'share and disseminate agricultural technologies that can help improve food production, increase food security, reduce poverty and expand agricultural trade', according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The signing took place at an ceremony in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on the first day of a three-day ministerial conference on agricultural biotechnology sponsored by the USDA, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). (US Department of State PRESS RELEASE, June 21, 2004)