African Civil Society Says NO to a New Green Revolution for Africa

Eric Holt-Giménez | 02.02.2007

At the recent World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, African civil society rejected the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $150 million Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa—AGRA.

The creators of AGRA promise to bring benefits to the African continent’s 180 million impoverished farmers who—they claim—have until now been bypassed by the first Green Revolution. But in a statement signed by over 70 organizations, African farmers unions and sustainable agricultural development NGOs criticized AGRA for its industry-driven, chemically-dependent approach to production, and accused the foundations of using hunger to introduce genetically modified crops into the continent.

AGRA directors have yet to consult farmers’ organizations, and have patently ignored successful, farmer-driven experiences in sustainable agriculture.

Farmers’ resistance is understandable. The specious assertion that the Green Revolution “missed” Africa is disproved by the fact that over the last twenty years, the CGIAR—which brings together all the key Green Revolution research institutions—has invested 40-45% of their $350 million-a-year budget in Africa. If these public funds were not invested in a Green Revolution for Africa, then where were they spent? If they were spent on the Green Revolution, then why does Africa need another one? Either the Green Revolution’s institutions don’t work, or the Green Revolution itself doesn’t work—or both. The Green Revolution did not “bypass” Africa. It failed. Because AGRA ignores, misinterprets, and misrepresents the harsh lessons of the first Green Revolution’s multiple failures, it will likely worsen, rather than alleviate hunger. (To read more about why it will fail go to /files/pubs/policy/pb12.html)

AGRA directors have yet to consult farmers’ organizations, and have patently ignored successful, farmer-driven experiences in sustainable agriculture.

Lawrence Sismka a representative of PELUM (Participatory Ecological Land Use Management), a regional network of 160 African NGOs working in sustainable agricultural development, called for an effort to create a platform of debate and discussion between AGRA, African farmers-led organizations, and civil society to share the thoughts and priorities of farmers. “There are great examples of farmers-led alternative development initiatives that are environmentally sound, sustainable, and need to be supported and encouraged,” he said.

Mrs. Mujuri Sarah of Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO) Uganda said, “If the Bill Gates and Rockefeller foundation is going to introduce this plan, it is going to have a heavy consequences on environment, the indigenous seed preserving culture of farmers, and also possible social costs… everybody should do a persistent campaign against the plan and say no for Green Revolution.”

In the coming months, African groups and their international allies will be mounting campaigns and initiatives to monitor, inform and challenge AGRA. The initiative will also be addressed at the upcoming Via Campesina conference on Food Sovereignty in Bamako Mali, February 21-27. Northern organizations working on hunger, sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty can join these efforts by informing themselves and helping to amplify farmers’ voices in Africa’s agricultural development debate.

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