Re: Voices from Africa - new report
The long urls for the report fragmented in our last mail, so here are tiny urls:
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EXTRACT: "Voices from Africa is a compilation of views, essays, and statements by the leading voices of African opposition to genetic engineering and tells the stories of their struggles. It is our hope that it will break through the rhetoric, debunk the myths surrounding the purported need for a Green Revolution in Africa, and reframe the debate to ensure food sovereignty for Africa and her people." - Anuradha Mittal
Voices from Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa
Introduction [extracts only]
by Anuradha Mittal
Chronic hunger affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide but it is most deeply entrenched in Africa. In 2004, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that the number of chronically malnourished in the world had increased to 854 million, with the situation in sub-Saharan Africa being the most dire: the absolute number of hungry people increased from 169 million to 212 million.
This grave situation was further worsened by an 83 percent increase in global food prices between 2005 and 2008. Provisional FAO estimates show that rising prices have plunged an additional 75 million people globally below the hunger threshold, of which 24 million are in sub-Saharan Africa.
A crisis of this proportion raises major questions about industrial agriculture and how best to address the needs of the hungry. The global food crisis requires intervention and a paradigm shift that recognizes agriculture as fundamental to the well-being of all people, both in terms of access to safe and nutritious food and as the foundation of healthy communities, cultures, and the environment. Unfortunately, the 2008 food crisis - especially the widespread hunger and poverty in Africa - is being used to make the case for addressing hunger by increasing agricultural production through technical solutions such as genetically engineered (GE) crops. Nowhere in the process of crafting solutions are the voices and experiences of Africans, especially African farmers, included.
Several actors, including the Yara Foundation, Millennium Villages, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), among others, have been actively rallying for GE crops in Africa for some time. The involvement of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a widely hailed U.S. philanthropic effort backed by major foundations, has pushed the promotion of a technology based agricultural revolution to the forefront of policy debate for the continent. Launched in September 2006 as a joint initiative between the Rockefeller Foundation and
the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, AGRA expands on the Rockefeller Foundation's Green Revolution in Africa Initiative. Founded with an initial commitment of $100 million from the Gates Foundation and another $50 million from the Rockefeller Foundation, today AGRA is the biggest grantee of the Gates Foundation. With over $262 million committed, AGRA is poised to become one of the main institutional vehicles for changing African agriculture.
The extent of AGRA's reach is evident from its unprecedented partnerships with key players in the agricultural arena. At the FAO High-Level Conference on World Food Security in Rome, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between AGRA, FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) that called for using the Green Revolution to turn Africa's breadbasket regions into a source of emergency food aid for the continent. AGRA has also joined forces with the Millennium Challenge Corp., which was established by the Bush Administration to work with poor countries that guarantee “good governance” and “open economic systems” to battle the food crisis in Africa.
AGRA: An African-led Green Revolution?
"AGRA is an African face and voice for our work and also informs our work as a key strategic partner”¦." - Agricultural Development Strategy 2008-2011, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
AGRA first gained momentum in June 2007 with the appointment of Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general, as its chairman. Under Annan's direction, AGRA’s stated goal is "to trigger an African-led Green Revolution that will transform African agriculture...."
However, AGRA's agenda of a Green Revolution for Africa has come under heavy criticism from African civil society. At the World Forum for Food Sovereignty at Nyeleni, Mali in 2007, African farmer, agricultural, and pastoralist organizations categorically rejected the idea that Kofi Annan could speak on behalf of over 50 countries and 680 million people.
Despite the Gates Foundation’s rhetoric, AGRA's vision for agricultural development was not drawn up by African voices, nor does it take into account developing countries' experience with the first Green Revolution. Instead, this agricultural revolution for Africa was designed by Gordon Conway, President of the Rockefeller Foundation through 2004. He outlined his plan in his book The Doubly Green Revolution: Food For All in the 21st Century.
The appointment of key staff at the Gates Foundation is also indicative of the direction that AGRA intends to steer agriculture in Africa. In 2006, the Gates Foundation appointed Dr. Robert Horsch as the Senior Program Officer in the Global Development Program, which directly supervises the AGRA initiative. Horsch came to the foundation after 25 years on the staff of the Monsanto Corporation, one of the world’s biggest biotechnology multinationals and one of the most aggressive promoters of GM crops. At Monsanto, Horsch was the Vice-President for Product and Technology Cooperation, later Vice-President for International Development Partnership, and also a member of the team that developed Monsanto's YieldGard, Boll-Gard, and RoundUp Ready technologies.
Another major player hailing from the St. Louis biotech hub is Lawrence Kent of the Danforth Center, an institute that is heavily funded by Monsanto. Following Horsch’s and Kent's appointments, the Danforth Center's president, Roger Beachy, said that it wouldn’t hurt to have two people familiar with St. Louis researchers holding the strings to the Gates Foundation’s large purse.
UnsurprisinglY, on January 8, 2009, St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that the Gates Foundation has awarded a $5.4 million grant to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, to "help the center secure the approval of African governments to allow field testing of genetically modified banana, rice, sorghum and cassava plants that have been fortified with vitamins, minerals and proteins." [Someone else who deserves a mention is Robert Paarlberg, who wrote the report for the Gates Foundation on overcoming regulatory hurdles to GM crops in Africa which underlies this grant award. Paarlberg an advisor to Monsanto's CEO.]
Lutz Goedde, another hire from the biotech industry, is the former CEO and President of Alta Genetics, and is credited with making Alta the world's largest privately owned cattle genetics improvement and artificial insemination company. All three are working for the Gates Foundation, funding projects aimed at the developing world.
The appointment of Kofi Annan as AGRA's chairman was a strategic decision that the Gates Foundation made to silence criticisms that its agricultural development agenda was a "White Man’s Dream for Africa." In fact, this more reeks of Monsanto's campaign: "Let the Harvest Begin."
Launched in 1998 to gain acceptance of GE crops around the world by projecting the benefits of the Green Revolution in Asia and its potential in Africa, Monsanto’s campaign managed to draw several respected African leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, to speak for a new Green Revolution in Africa. In response, all of the African delegates (except South Africa) to the UN Food and Agriculture Negotiations on the International Undertaking for Plant Genetic Resources in June 1998 issued a counter statement, "Let Nature's Harvest Continue." The delegates clearly stated
their objection to multinational companies’ use of the image of the poor and hungry from African countries to push technology that is not safe, environmentally friendly, or economically beneficial.
Lack of Accountability, Transparency, and Stakeholder Involvement
"I came away very much wanting to work more closely with agro-ecological groups. We talk to anyone who will talk to us. How could we aspire to be transformational if we didn't?"
- Rajiv Shah, quoted in A Green Revolution for Africa? New York Times, October 10, 2008
With the announcement of AGRA, the agricultural development agenda of the foundation has come under heavy scrutiny by civil society groups and social movements. To quell some of this criticism, Rajiv Shah, the Gates Foundation's Director of Agricultural Development, traveled around the U.S. in 2008 supposedly to meet with groups and solicit input from agricultural scientists, economists, and rural sociologists through so-called listening roundtables.
However, it is not evident how this input has been incorporated into foundation activities. More important, it is not apparent how, and if, African farmers have been consulted by the foundation before they launched their multi-million dollar development strategy. It will be very important to know what their reaction to the foundation's strategy is. Not one of those consulted for the foundation's agricultural strategy not the reviewers or the external advisory board members is a farmer from Africa. However, external advisors like Ruth Oniang'o, who is closely associated with some of the African political elite, can be found on Monsanto’s web pages
claiming that there is an urgent need for food biotechnology in Africa. (http://www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/asp/experts.asp?id=RuthOniango)
In the wake of popular global resistance to GM crops, the Gates Foundation has been deliberately vague about its decision-making process and unclear about its role in the promotion of the use of genetically engineered seeds. However, the foundation continues to spend millions of dollars on the development of genetically engineered "nutritious" bananas, cassava, rice, and sorghum. It awarded a $16.9 million grant for a project in Iowa aimed at making sorghum into a more easily digestible crop that is richer in vitamins A and E, iron, zinc, amino acids, and protein.
A key partner of this endeavor is Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of Dupont, which has donated $4.8 million in gene technology. Already locked into tight competition in the commercial seeds market, Pioneer hopes that success with biotech sorghum, in collaboration with Gates Foundation, might help open doors for other biotech crops in countries currently skeptical of genetically modified crops.
The Gates Foundation is also providing advocacy grants to support policy and institutional reforms around GMOs at the national and regional levels. The foundation describes this in its strategy paper as developing "policy space around GMOs" and creating "an appropriate enabling environment." One of the potential grantees under this scheme is Calestous Juma, professor at John F. Kennedy's School of Government through Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANPRAN). At the 2008 G8 summit in Japan, Juma, who co-chaired the African Union's High-Level Panel on Modern Biotechnology, took it upon himself to urge the G8 to "Get Biotechnology on the Agenda for Africa." While hailing the Gates Foundation's $47 million grant to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to engineer drought-resistant maize and praising Monsanto for offering "proprietary genetic material and advanced breeding techniques," Juma criticized GMO opponents as "advocacy groups in
industrialized countries who purport to speak for developing countries" and accused them of showing little interest in the welfare of the people they claim to be protecting.
Around the safety issue, Juma discarded the application of the precautionary principle, and advocated that the demand that products be proven safe before commercialization has denied Africa a crucial chance to learn to use the technology, and that such demands are ploys used to stall the adoption of new technologies by other vested interests.
His key message, yet again, is poor washing: "by failing to adopt biotechnology, Africa puts its poor populations at greater risk of starvation." This kind of communications strategy, used aggressively to promote GM crops, is viewed by the Gates Foundation as creating "an appropriate enabling environment."
'Land Mobility': AGRA's Goal and Vision of Success
The Executive Summary of the Gates Foundation's confidential Agricultural Development Strategy 2008-2011 outlines its theory of change: “Smallholders with the potential to produce a surplus can create a market-oriented agricultural system serving the health and welfare needs of rural populations to exit poverty”¦The vision of success involves market-oriented farmers operating profitable farms that generate enough income to sustain their rise out of poverty. Over time, this will require some degree of land mobility and a lower percentage of total employment
involved in direct agricultural production."
Despite the foundation's claims that it invests in agricultural development because a growing majority of the world’s poor are reliant on agriculture, the Strategy plan clearly emphasizes moving people out of the agriculture sector. This is in the name of reducing dependency on agriculture, but it doesn't specify where and how this new "land mobile" population is to be reemployed.
Business as Usual
"Despite the "new" tag added to its name, the Green Revolution prescribed for Africa basically follows the same formula used in Asia - a technology package for agriculture involving the use of external inputs, massive agricultural infrastructure and modern seeds, but with the twist
of genetically modified seeds added into the equation to respond to the environmental consequences caused by the old formula." - Unmasking the New Green Revolution in Africa: Motives, Players and Dynamics
Promotional campaigns for a Green Revolution regularly feature a handful of African spokespeople - like Florence Wambugu, a Monsanto-trained biotechnician, or Ruth Oniang'o, external advisor to the Gates Foundation. In the mainstream media, their voices calling for technology to save Africa drown out the genuine voices of farmers, researchers, and civil society groups, and these spokespeople build support for efforts such as AGRA. But there is widespread questioning of and opposition to technology-based solutions to hunger and poverty, especially genetic engineering of agriculture, in Africa.
Africa has been largely united against GM crops, opting instead for comprehensive policy interventions supporting family farmers to produce and trade their crops in a sustainable manner. Even when faced with dire situations of hunger, African countries have still chosen to protect biodiversity over accepting GM food aid, as was the case with Zambia in 2002.
Voices from Africa is a compilation of views, essays, and statements by the leading voices of African opposition to genetic engineering and tells the stories of their struggles. It is our hope that it will break through the rhetoric, debunk the myths surrounding the purported need for a Green Revolution in Africa, and reframe the debate to ensure food sovereignty for Africa and her people.