MODERNISING AFRICAN AGRICULTURE: WHO BENEFITS?
African agriculture is in need of support and investment. Many initiatives are flowing from the North, including the G8’s “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa” and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). These initiatives are framed in terms of the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). This gives them a cover of legitimacy.
But what is driving these investments, and who is set to benefit from them?
The current wave of investment emerges on the back of the gathering global crisis with financial, economic, food, energy and ecological dimensions. Africa is seen as underperforming and in control of valuable resources that capital seeks for profitable purposes. The World Bank and others tell us Africa has an abundance of available fertile land, and that Africa’s production structure is inefficient, based as it is on many small farms producing mainly for themselves and their neighbourhoods (i).
Africa is seen as a possible new frontier to make profits, with an eye on land, food and biofuels in particular. The recent investment wave must be understood in the context of consolidation of a global food regime (ii) dominated by large corporations in input supply (seed and agrochemicals) especially, but also increasingly in processing, storage, trading and distribution.
G8 and AGRA: a new wave of colonialism
Opening markets and creating space for multinationals to secure profits lie at the heart of the G8 and AGRA interventions. Both initiatives are built on the basis of public-private partnerships (PPPs) with the large multinational seed, fertiliser and agrochemical companies setting the agenda, and states and institutions (like the G8, World Bank and others) and philanthropic institutions (like AGRA and others) establishing the institutional and infrastructural mechanisms to realise this agenda.
Multinational corporations like Yara, Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill and many others want secure markets for their products in Africa. In the first place, security means protection of their private ownership of knowledge in the form of intellectual property (IP) protection. Across Africa, so-called ‘harmonisation’ of laws and policies are underway to align African laws and systems with the interests of these multinationals.
Harmonisation of trade laws means opening borders across the continent to free trade. But this is a skewed free trade, one that favours the ‘formal sector’ of goods and services that have gone through approval and registration processes. Farmers and other producers of goods and services who cannot afford to enter the official approval system are marginalised and trading of their products is rendered illegal.
Private ownership of knowledge and material resources (for example, seed and genetic materials) means the flow of royalties out of Africa into the hands of multinational corporations. In some countries where laws protecting the interests of corporations are well established – for example in South Africa – multinationals have entirely occupied domestic seed and agrochemical sectors with profits flowing out of the country. The same is happening for agricultural services, trade, manufacturing and even selling of food.
The private companies are not acting on their own. They are using investment-friendly government policies and plans to advance their agenda.
CAADP and regional investment policies: facilitating ‘orderly’ processes of colonialism
There are many well-meaning organisations and individuals who view CAADP as an African-based investment plan. But Africa is not isolated from the world. CAADP emerged at the height of neo-liberalism globally in the early 2000s. African governments were mired in the consequences of decades of structural adjustment that saw the net outflow of financial and other resources from Africa to the rest of the world. The New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was an initiative by selected African governments to integrate Africa into global flows of capital. The expectation was that profit-generating investment, and creating the conditions for protection of this investment, were Africa’s chance to catch up with the rest.
African governments, desperate for some financial relief, are willing to make whatever changes are necessary to bring capital into their countries. The multinationals are setting the terms: harmonisation, free trade and protection of private IP or no investment. It is therefore of little use calling for CAADP to be placed at the centre of investment plans. CAADP itself is a compromised instrument, calling for the very policies and programmes favoured by the multinationals.
Food security and corporate-driven investment in Africa
Harmonisation, free trade and the creation of institutions and infrastructure to facilitate multinational penetration into Africa are presented as the answer to food insecurity on the continent. Multinational corporations, African states, states outside Africa, philanthropic institutions, multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and even some non-government organisations are all part of this agenda. Surely so many organisations and people cannot be wrong?
The logic is that of the Green Revolution: introduce yield- and sales-enhancing technologies and systems, provide credit for producers to access these technologies, and anticipate increasing returns from sales to cover the increasing cost of inputs. Expand access to markets globally and regionally to absorb increased production.
This model can benefit some, as Green Revolutions in Asia and to a lesser extent in Latin America have shown. However, it also has negative social and ecological side effects. Green Revolution technologies benefit relatively few farmers, often at the expense of the majority. These technologies produce concentration of land ownership, increasing economies of scale (production has to be at a large scale to get into and stay in markets), and a declining number of food producing households in a context of limited other livelihood options.
Ecological concerns about Green Revolution technologies are rising to the top of the global agenda, especially loss of biodiversity when commercial hybrids and GM seed dominate (especially maize as a staple crop in Africa, and the introduction of soya as the basis of biofuels and commercial intercropping approaches), soil degradation and water pollution caused by excessive use of manufactured chemicals in synthetic fertilisers, and water shortages caused by wasteful water use in irrigation.
The Green Revolution produces uneven benefits, favouring farmers with financial resources of their own, with access to more land, and with some formal education. The majority of resource poor farmers are excluded from public support for agriculture, with infrastructure and institutional frameworks designed for the minority to benefit.
Currently African food security rests fundamentally on small-scale and localised production. The majority of the African population continue to rely on agriculture as an important, if not the main, source of income and livelihoods. In most sub-Saharan African countries, agriculture is the primary economic activity for between 50% and 90% of the population (iii). Even though there is growing urbanisation, the majority will continue to rely on agriculture for their livelihoods for decades to come. The rural population continues to grow in absolute terms even while the urban population grows as a proportion of the total population.
We know that all of these people will not benefit from these new investments. Seen as more inefficient than those producers who are in a position to adopt the new technologies, many will be forced out of agriculture to become passive consumers. Instead of building the broad base of producers, G8 and AGRA investments, supported by African government policies and resources, will narrow the base of producers.
The practical results of the recent surge in investment in African agriculture expose the empty rhetoric of African food security. Blatant land grabs are well known across the continent. Mega projects such as the ProSavanna project in northern Mozambique are displacing farmers from their lands and imposing large-scale production structures for export. Favourable investment terms (for example tax free zones and laws on repatriation of profits) undermine even the questionable benefits increased foreign exchange brings. Meanwhile actual farmers are separated from the land and the only realistic option for a livelihood. African governments and their investment ‘partners’ enable and implement these projects.
First and foremost, differentiated strategies are required, so that local and informal markets, proven low-input and ecologically sustainable agricultural techniques including intercropping, on-farm compost production, mixed farming systems (livestock, crops and trees), on-farm biofuel production and use, and intermediate processing and storage technologies are recognised and vigorously supported. The emphasis here is on individual and household food security first, with trade arising from surpluses beyond this. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) provides detailed and scientifically sound proposals in this regard.
Open access technologies are an essential principle, especially seed, where all recent technological advances are based on 10,000 years of collective experimentation and sharing. No-one and no corporations should be allowed to privatise the results of ongoing research. Companies can sell their new varieties, but once sold, they re-enter the common pool that anyone should be able to use and improve on at will.
Green Revolution technological development leads to an ever-increasing gap between conception and execution, that is between the knowledge that goes into producing a new seed variety and those who use the seed. An alternative, based on open source technologies, is a far closer working relationship between decentralised technicians and producers to define the research and development agenda (what traits are farmers looking for in specific locations, what crops are priorities for further development etc). Plant breeders are still able to make profits by selling new varieties to those who want to buy fresh seed, especially commercial farmers. But if farmers choose to reuse and adapt seed once they have bought it, that must be their right.
i World Bank 2009 “Awakening Africa’s sleeping giant: Prospects for commercial agriculture in Africa’s Guinea Savannah zone and beyond”, World Bank Agriculture and Rural Development Unit, Africa Regional Office
ii McMichael, P. 2009 “A food regime genealogy”, Journal of Peasant Studies, 36: 1, pp.139-169
iii World Bank, “World Databank”, http://databank.worldbank.org/data/home.aspx
June 5, 2013 - Posted by aletho | Economics, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | Africa, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Green Revolution, Monsanto, Sub-Saharan Africa, World Bank
1 Comment »
or go to
From the Archives
New York Times | July 12, 1976
The weather seems to have gone berserk lately.
The tennis courts at Wimbledon in England have not been as parched since the 1920’s. The same is true for croplands in northern France, the Soviet Union, Minnesota and the Dakotas.
It’s so dry, brush fires have started several weeks early in California, and water is being rationed. As a result, Dr. Browning and other previously ignored climatologists are getting a lot of attention. Projections that they made years ago appear to be coming true. …
Aletho News Original Content
By Aletho News | January 9, 2012
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
Also by Aletho News:
March 8, 2011
February 25, 2010
February 7, 2010
December 26, 2009
December 4, 2009
May 9, 2009
Visits Since December 2009
- 2,807,479 hits
Follow Aletho News on TwitterMy Tweets
Jerry Alatalo on 8 richest people as wealthy as… traducteur on Israeli Forces Seize Tractors… rediscover911com on Outgoing CIA Chief Warns Trump… roberthstiver on Trump: US may lift Russian san… Brian Harry, Austral… on Facebook’s aim: combat f… Brian Harry, Austral… on Why Did the Al-Jazeera Expose… tsisageya on Friends, “fake news”, and cens… coinherence on Why Did the Al-Jazeera Expose… coinherence on Why Did the Al-Jazeera Expose… Brian Harry, Austral… on Trump plans to hold summit wit… GUZE` SPITERI on Why Did the Al-Jazeera Expose… Brian Harry, Austral… on China, Vietnam agree to manage… roy on Trump administration to adhere… Brian Harry, Austral… on US Builds Database of Foreign-… Brian Harry, Austral… on Why Did the Al-Jazeera Expose…
- NOAA’s Tornado Fraud January 17, 2017
- Beyond Physics: Advanced Biology and Climate Change January 16, 2017
- Israeli Forces Seize Tractors in Jordan Valley January 16, 2017
- Donald Trump v. the Spooks January 16, 2017
- After the WaPost’s Latest Shot, It’s Time to Call ‘Fake News’ By Its Real Name ‘Weaponized Journalism’ January 16, 2017
- 8 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world – Oxfam January 16, 2017
- ‘Russophobic hysteria now backed up by massive US troop movements in Europe’ January 16, 2017
- Afghanistan: Obama Sends Marines to Take Part in America’s Longest Ever War January 16, 2017
- German opposition needs Sahra Wagenknecht to defeat Angela Merkel January 16, 2017
- Trump Dossier: ‘I’d Really Like to Find Out Why My Name is in This Report’ January 16, 2017
- Outgoing CIA Chief Warns Trump to “Watch His Words” January 16, 2017
- Trump: US may lift Russian sanctions in exchange for nuclear reduction deal – Times, Bild January 16, 2017
- Facebook’s aim: combat fake news with fact checkers & ‘untrustworthy’ shame label January 15, 2017
- Palestinian political factions object to Paris peace conference January 15, 2017
- Friends, “fake news”, and censorship pays off big. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth jumps $5 billion in two weeks January 15, 2017
- Meet the Deplorables January 15, 2017
- The Beatification of Barack Obama January 15, 2017
- The Lobby P4: The Takedown January 15, 2017
- The Entire World is “Fake News” January 16, 2017
- EU imports 15 times more from illegal Israeli settlements than from Palestinians January 15, 2017
- The Beatification of Barack Obama January 15, 2017
- CIA, FBI and NSA produce joint report, jointly prove nothing January 14, 2017
- ISIS: Not by Terrorism Alone January 7, 2017
Looking for something?
Categories"Hope and Change" Aletho News Book Review Civil Liberties Corruption Deception Economics Environmentalism Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism False Flag Terrorism Full Spectrum Dominance Illegal Occupation Islamophobia Mainstream Media, Warmongering Militarism Nuclear Power Science and Pseudo-Science Solidarity and Activism Subjugation - Torture Supremacism, Social Darwinism Timeless or most popular Video War Crimes Wars for Israel
Tags9/11 Afghanistan Africa AIPAC al-Qaeda Argentina BBC Benjamin Netanyahu Brazil Canada Central Intelligence Agency China CIA Colombia Cuba Da’esh Donald Trump Egypt EU European Union FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation France Gaza Germany Hamas Hebron Hezbollah Hillary Clinton Honduras Human rights India International Atomic Energy Agency International Solidarity Movement Iran Iraq Iraq War ISIL ISIS Israel Israeli settlement Japan Jerusalem John Kerry Latin America Lebanon Libya Mexico Middle East Military National Security Agency NATO New York Times NSA Obama Pakistan Palestine Police Press TV Qatar Russia Sanctions against Iran Saudi Arabia Syria Turkey UK Ukraine United Nations United States USA Venezuela Washington Post West Bank Yemen Zionism
Contact:atheonews (at) gmail.com
This site is provided as a research and reference tool. Although we make every reasonable effort to ensure that the information and data provided at this site are useful, accurate, and current, we cannot guarantee that the information and data provided here will be error-free. By using this site, you assume all responsibility for and risk arising from your use of and reliance upon the contents of this site.
This site and the information available through it do not, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Should you require legal advice, you should consult your own attorney.
Nothing within this site or linked to by this site constitutes investment advice or medical advice.
Materials accessible from or added to this site by third parties, such as comments posted, are strictly the responsibility of the third party who added such materials or made them accessible and we neither endorse nor undertake to control, monitor, edit or assume responsibility for any such third-party material.
The posting of stories, commentaries, reports, documents and links (embedded or otherwise) on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such posted material or parts therein.
The word "alleged" is deemed to occur before the word "fraud." Since the rule of law still applies. To peasants, at least.
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more info go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
This is information for anyone that wishes to challenge our “fair use” of copyrighted material.
If you are a legal copyright holder or a designated agent for such and you believe that content residing on or accessible through our website infringes a copyright and falls outside the boundaries of “Fair Use”, please send a notice of infringement by contacting email@example.com.
We will respond and take necessary action immediately.
If notice is given of an alleged copyright violation we will act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the material(s) in question.
All 3rd party material posted on this website is copyright the respective owners / authors. Aletho News makes no claim of copyright on such material.
Site infoAletho News
Blog at WordPress.com.