Kofi Annan and AGRA insult African farmers, calling their opposition to GM and draconian free trade seed laws a "farce"
1.Teresa Anderson unpacks AGRA's plan for GMOs in Africa
2.AGRA: helping agribusiness conquer African agriculture?
3.GM crops: African opposition is a farce, says group led by Kofi Annan
NOTE: Since stepping down as UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan has acted as chair to the Africa Progress Panel created by Tony Blair, whose impact has been negligible. He has also served as chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which has always denied being a lobby for big agribusiness interests and GM crops, despite being funded by the Gates Foundation.
1. Teresa Anderson unpacks AGRA's plan for GMOs in Africa
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has released a new "Africa Agriculture Status" report that reveals what we all suspected: that they plan to use their influence to open up Africa for GM crops. For some years, AGRA and Kofi Annan have been coyly evading questions about their position on GM, however with this report their agenda is becoming clear. Insultingly, they dare to call farmers' concerns about the right to save seed a "fear of the unknown", and a "farce".
The report calls seed laws that allow farmers to save and exchange their seed "outdated" and implicitly supports the push for changes in seed laws that are currently taking place in the economic blocs of COMESA, SADC, and ARIPO.
It calls for more fertiliser use as a solution to declining soil fertility (when it is well known that fertiliser actually kills the natural fertility in soil.) And calls for more Research & Development in Africa - but this would likely be on terms that produce crops that require agribusiness inputs while eroding indigenous seed diversity.
It will come as no surprise that [the] recommendations in the report all serve AGRA's agribusiness goal of creating massive new markets by converting African agriculture to a model based on corporate seed, fertilisers, and pesticides, all paid for with spiraling debt. AGRA may talk of addressing hunger and poverty, but their agenda to create a dangerous dependence on agribusiness corporations across Africa, is becoming more naked by the day.
2. AGRA: helping agribusiness conquer African agriculture?
Iza Kruszewska and Glen Tyler
Greenpeace, September 6 2013
Finally, we have confirmation of what we have long suspected: AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, has been created to facilitate the corporate takeover of African agriculture, not support African smallholder farmers with real solutions.
AGRA’s African Agriculture Status Report 2013 released two days ago confirms the organisation’s Green Revolution agenda, despite the legacy of soil degradation and water depletion left by the Green Revolution in Asia.
AGRA, founded by the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations in 2006, claims that it is spurring a “uniquely African Green Revolution”, but there’s little original thinking here. Instead, it seems to be more of the same agenda that locks farmers into a spiral of corporate control, making them dependent on seeds and fertilisers from transnational corporations which dictate price and product delivery times.
In a meeting with AGRA officials in Nairobi in January 2013, we asked for greater transparency about the projects that AGRA is funding. This request was met with accusations that Greenpeace was making assumptions about AGRA’s work and a vehement denial from AGRA that it was funding genetically engineered (GE) crops and pesticides.
Although AGRA may not yet be funding GE directly, it’s certainly laying the groundwork by providing the “enabling environment” and facilitating the “public private partnerships” that will see the privatisation of profits. The end result is that the social and environmental costs will be borne by society, particularly the smallholder female farmers that AGRA claims to be helping.
In setting up agro-dealerships and facilitating credit lines to smallholder farmers to enable them to buy fertilisers and hybrid seeds, AGRA is rolling out the model of debt-driven agriculture that has seen farmers in India incur huge debts when harvests fail. Debt is a likely reason behind the suicides of thousands of farmers in India.
The introduction of AGRA's report recognises the vagaries of the global commodity market, but stops short of showing the devastating effects that “price fluctuations” can have on debt laden smallholder farmers.
Through its policy hub programme, AGRA is driving the corporate agenda that aims to harmonise seed laws to the lowest common denominator that would stop farmers retaining seeds and instead pave the way for the introduction of patented GE seeds, despite the concerns of farmers.
It seems that AGRA has listened to farmers’ concerns about these seeds and then carried on regardless, discarding their opposition as "a farce". Greenpeace believes that only ecological farming can clearly help farmers by optimising traditional agriculture with the latest developments in technology research and knowledge-based systems.
Instead of driving farmers into the unreliable arms of commodity markets, organisations like AGRA and their funders should fund additional research into ecological farming, schooling for farmers and informational support services provided by other NGOs, research centres and foundations.
Ecological farming is the only system that empowers local farmers to feed themselves and their families, keep income in their communities, preserve their livelihoods and the ecosystems of Africa. This is the agricultural future farmers and all of us want to see for Africa, not corporate greed.
Iza Kruszewska, senior ecological farming campaigner at Greenpeace International
Glen Tyler, ecological farming campaigner at Greenpeace Africa
3. GM crops: African opposition is a farce, says group led by Kofi Annan
The Guardian, 5 September 2013
*Group chaired by former UN secretary general urges farmers to shake fear of the unknown and adopt new technologies
Concern in Africa over genetically modified crops has been dismissed as fear of the unknown by an environmental group chaired by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general.
A report by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), published on Wednesday, describes opposition to GM crops as "a farce". It points out that such crops have been subjected to more testing worldwide than new non-modified varieties, citing reports from the EU, the World Health Organisation and the US national academy of sciences.
Only four African countries – Burkina Faso, Egypt, Sudan, and South Africa – have fully commercialised GM crops. But Agra says most countries across the continent are at various stages of creating the environment for commercialisation.
Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda are conducting field trials of biotech crops, the final step before full approval of commercialisation. Most African countries have put in place the requisite policy and regulatory frameworks, despite growing public jitters over genetically modified food.
Agra's Africa Agricultural status report states: "There is growing public opposition to GM crops in Africa that is best described as a fear of the unknown. Unless milled, the import of GM foods is banned in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. More important to seed-sector development, these bans signal the arbitrariness and unpredictability of public policy."
Agra is an independent organisation based in Kenya that aims to double the income of 20 million small farmers and reduce food insecurity by 50% in 20 countries by 2020. Critics of the group accuse it of showing its true colours after initial coyness over GM foods.
"This report clearly indicates their full support for GM crops, and their intention to use their influence to open African doors for Monsanto's and Syngenta's patented GM crops," said Teresa Anderson, international advocacy co-ordinator for the Gaia foundation, an advocate of food sovereignty that asserts the right of people to define their own food systems.
"Characterising the refusal of most African countries to commercialise GM crops … as 'fear of the unknown' is patronising and shallow. Agra has wilfully chosen to insult farmers' concerns in their aim to expand corporate agribusiness into Africa."
The Agra report urges African countries to further invest in agricultural research and development to ensure food security amid concern that some nations are lagging behind. "In terms of personnel engaged in agricultural research, Africa has the world's lowest capacity, with only 70 researchers per million inhabitants (compared with the US and Japan with 2,640 and 4,380, respectively)," it says.
It notes that smallholder farm yields fall short of the estimated potential for most food crops (cereals and pulses). The average grain yields remained at about one-third to half of the world's average (1.1-1.5 tonnes per hectare versus 3.2 tonnes per hectare) between 2000 and 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest gaps between potential yields and realised yields for several crops, particularly maize and rice.
"Plausible explanations for the low yields include lack of access to quality resources such as water, inputs and low use of new technologies that require money – such as fertiliser, machinery and irrigation technology," the report says. "The development and dissemination of new technologies and practices that increase yield potential for a particular area depend on a country's ability to make needed investments, and farmers' skills and willingness to adopt the technologies."
Anderson said the key was quality, not quantity, of research, and questioned the approach of most agriculture research institutes. "They are usually focused on producing a few varieties that claim to address individual (not complex) issues," she said. "Farmers are advised to grow these new varieties instead of their traditional crops. What we are clearly seeing as a result is that seed diversity is disappearing in Africa, while communities complain that the new varieties are tasteless, lack nutrition, or are more vulnerable to particular pests."
The report coincides with a meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, of the African green revolution forum, organised by Agra. The focus of the talks – which bring together heads of state, ministers, NGOs, and scientists – is "scaling up and financing inclusive agribusiness through transformative public private partnerships".
The forum takes place 10 years after 40 African countries, convened by the African Union, signed the Maputo declaration, committing at least 10% of their national budgets to agriculture development.