Immense reserves of gas and coal in northern Mozambique have attracted foreign investors in recent years, but so has its fertile soil, much to the concern of small farmers displaced by agricultural mega-projects. Many local farmers are being squeezed out over government plans to encourage the establishment of huge plantations.
Earlier this year, Friends of the Earth groups in Nigeria and the United States published the report Exploitation and empty promises: Wilmar’s Nigerian land grab, which raises serious concerns about human rights, equity and development justice in regards to PZ-Wilmar’s purchase of lands in Nigeria’s Cross River State. Wilmar responded by dismissing many of our concerns as misleading or out-of-date — though the company did acknowledge that it needed to take some corrective actions. In partnership with Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Nigerian communities now respond to the company with a formal statement regarding the company’s operations, accompanied by a short video Wilmar’s land acquisition is part of Nigeria’s implementation of its commitment under the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition — a set of policies and financing commitments that promote large-scale commodity agriculture in several African nations, in what some have called a coup for corporate capital. The company’s response to Friends of the Earth’s report earlier this year argued that some people in the project area in Cross River State disagreed with our findings. It is a sad testimony to the kind of development being imposed on this region that the land grab in Cross River State is characterized by a dynamic that Africans in particular are very familiar with, from their history of colonial domination, as “divide-and-rule”. What both the video and the statement make clear, is that broad community consent — Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, in the language of human rights policy — has been neither solicited nor given. We therefore continue to ask the question, is this just and equitable development, or just another palm oil land grab?
The Consortium for Food Safety in Africa, a network of radical anti-GMO environmental organizations involved in food safety issues in the continent, ended its biannual conference in Kenya. Environmentalists and food safety activists warned African countries particularly Kenya and Uganda that they were being used for field trials of mutant cassava virus developed by biotechnology companies. The idea was to develop mutant cassava viruses to attack natural cassava strains in Africa and also to develop strains resistant to it as genetically modified (GMOs) cassava. The activists claimed that the project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Monsanto through a proxy company called Genetics Technologies International Limited. This will put at risk the food security of 800 million Africans and also millions in South America and China who largely depend on cassava as staple food. Delegates pointed out that the countries including Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda were being used as test ground for release of the very virulent cassava viruses to attack the crops. The governments of these countries have accepted the solution offered by Monsanto owned by Bill Gates to provide them GMOs cassava. This would mean that the GMOs cassava planted in Africa would now come from only one source, Monsanto, who would have successfully hijacked cassava supply and food security of African countries.
Delegates from South Africa and East Africa criticized their governments for allowing the Bill Gates and Monsanto devised scheme to force-feed Africa with toxic GMO cassava strains while killing the natural cassava using the mutant cassava viruses. A Nigerian human rights lawyer informed the forum that the major interest of the biotechnology companies has been to capture the food security of Nigeria. According to him, about two million small farmers were driven away from their lands due to the Boko Haram insurgency in the north and are now being resettled and given GMO crops to plant through the so-called multilateral donor agencies also funded by Bill Gates.
This article was first seen at CRIMEFACTS.ORG
On March 23rd 2015, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) convened a secret meeting to promote a recent report detailing in clear terms how to privatize the seed and agricultural markets of Africa. The meeting was criticized for including corporations, development bodies, trade bodies and aid donors, yet excluding any African farmers or representatives of affected organisations.
In response, food justice campaigners held a demonstration outside the offices of the BMGF in London, with placards calling on the foundation to ‘free the seeds’ and handing out packets of open-pollinated seeds as a symbol of the alternative to the corporate model promoted by USAID and BMGF. A papier mâché piñata representing the commercial control of seed systems was smashed by the protesters, with thousands of seeds inside being spilled over the steps of the entrance to the BMGF. A twitter-storm also took place aimed at the Gates Foundation using the #freetheseeds hashtag.
The London meeting discussed a study produced by Monitor-Deloitte which was commissioned by the Gates Foundation and USAID. BMGF is a major sponsor of the commercialisation of agriculture in Africa including through its subsidiary the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Critics have argued that this commercial agenda extends foreign policy into Africa on behalf of corporate interests, threatening the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers who rely on recycling seed for their livelihoods. Although historically, in Africa and around the world, farmers have been the traditional developers and distributors of improved seeds, the study does not consider a potential role for farmers in the production or distribution of seed. Instead, farmers are viewed only as passive consumers of seed produced elsewhere.
A recent report by Global Justice Now on agroecology in African countries laid out a clear and evidence-based alternative to the industrial agriculture model being pushed by the BMGF. Studies of small scale, sustainable farming practices show that they not only have greater yields, they also have multiple, positive knock on effects like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing employment and reducing the gender gap. Heidi Chow, a food sovereignty campaigner at Global Justice Now said:
“The measures being promoted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will enable big agribusiness companies to take even more control over seeds across Africa at the expense of small-scale farmers. This is not 'aid' - it's another form of colonialism. We need to ensure that the control of seeds and other agricultural resources stay firmly in the hands of small farmers who feed the majority of the population in Africa rather than allowing big agribusiness to dominate even more aspects of the food system.”
Mariam Mariet Director of the African Centre for Biosafety in South Africa said:
“An equitable and sustainable solution to seed production and distribution can only come from direct engagement with farmers and their organisations to ensure their active involvement in these activities. Public-farmer partnerships that integrate farmer and scientific knowledge will generate a more accountable process, and produce longer-lasting and more meaningful solutions for African agricultural production, than these profit-driven, exclusive and narrow processes.”
In Ghana farmers' organisations have been fighting the introduction of what has been called the 'Monsanto law' that would effectively criminality traditional seed usage. Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah, Chair of Food Sovereignty Ghana said:
"Seeds are vital for our food system and our small farmers have always been able to save and swap seeds freely. Now our seed systems are increasingly under threat by corporations who are looking to take more control over seeds in their pursuit of profit. This meeting will push this corporate agenda to hand more control away from our small farmers and into the hands of big seed companies."
This article was first seen at THEGLOBALJUSTICE.ORG.UK
On Monday, March 23 2015, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored a secret meeting in London to promote a recent report detailing in clear terms how to privatize the seed and agricultural markets of Africa– without African stakeholders having a seat at the table.
The meeting is being criticized for including corporations, development bodies, trade bodies and aid donors, yet excluding any African farmers or representatives of affected organizations. Today protesters on both sides of the Atlantic are picketing to protest the corporate capture of seed, and to urge the foundation to support African food sovereignty. Both in London and Seattle protesters will distribute open-pollinated seeds as a symbol of the alternative to the corporate model promoted by USAID and BMGF.
The London meeting discussed a study produced by Monitor-Deloitte which was commissioned by the Gates Foundation and USAID. BMGF is a major sponsor of the commercialization of agriculture in Africa including through its subsidiary the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Working with USAID, this commercial agenda extends US foreign policy into Africa on behalf of corporate interests, threatening the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers who rely on recycling seed for their livelihoods.
Phil Bereano, food sovereignty campaigner with AGRA Watch and an Emeritus Professor at the University of Washington said, “This is an extension of what the Gates Foundation has been doing for several years – working with the US government and agribusiness giants like Monsanto to corporatize Africa’s genetic riches for the benefit of outsiders. Don’t Bill and Melinda realize that such colonialism is no longer in fashion? It’s time to support African farmers’ self-determination.”
The goal of the Monitor-Deloitte study is to develop models for commercialization of seed production in Africa, especially “early generation seed”, and to identify ways in which the African governmental sectors could facilitate private involvement in African seed systems. The study was conducted in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia on maize, rice, sorghum, cowpea, common beans, cassava and sweet potato.
The report exposes a typical approach of private sector “cherry picking”, whereprivate companies identify any profitable public activities for their own involvement. While complaining incessantly about “heavy state involvement” they still insist on such involvement for unprofitable activities and permitting the private sector to take the profitable activities.
The Monitor-Deloitte report uses cowpea production in Ghana as an example of where the public sector should carry the extremely expensive improved cowpea breeder seed costs to allow the private sector to profit in seed multiplication and distribution. Breeder seed is prohibitively costly because of low multiplication rates and low demand. But the demand that exists is nonetheless lucrative, so the private sector wants to be involved only in the parts of the production process identified as profitable. Where the whole chain is profitable, such as hybrid maize or in closed value chains where there is strong but limited demand and early production processes are also potentially profitable, for example hybrid sorghum for brewing, Deloitte proposes the public sector be locked out of the production process.
Although historically, in Africa and around the world, farmers have been the traditional developers and distributors of improved seeds, the report does not even consider a potential role for farmers in the production or distribution of seed. Indeed farmers are viewed only as passive consumers of seed produced elsewhere.
The meeting in London and the focus of the report expose the agendas of the BMGF and USAID to enable private interests to profit from essential life processes in African agriculture. Mariam Mayet Director of the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) in South Africa said: “ACB insists that an equitable and sustainable solution to seed production and distribution can only come from direct engagement with farmers and their organizations to ensure their active involvement in these activities. We further insist that public-farmer partnerships to improve seed that integrates farmer and scientific knowledge will generate a more accountable process, and produce longer-lasting and more meaningful solutions for African agricultural production, than these profit-driven, exclusive and narrow processes.”
This article was first seen at SEEDFREEDOM.INFO