Western Donors Drive Pro-Corporate Agricultural Campaign in Africa
In 2012, the G8 members launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN). The initiative gives a central place to agroindustry and agrochemical companies, and there are concerns that this will be to the detriment of family farmers. Africa, the site of NAFSN implementation, is a primary target of the pro-corporate push by several Western donors. A new report released by the Oakland Institute exposes how a coalition of five western donors is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of Africa.
Through the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project, they are spearheading a campaign aimed at expanding agribusiness activity in Africa, entailing the takeover of land for commercial agriculture, opening of countries’ input markets, privatizing of seed systems, and reforms of agricultural trade and tax laws to boost corporate profit. Promotion of hybrid and genetically modified seeds, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers by such aid programs is however turning Africa into a new market for agrichemical corporations.
The report reveals that the project will likely be devastating for smallholder African farmers. Outcomes include rising pressure on land and natural resources; dependence on expensive and polluting agricultural inputs; increased vulnerability to climate shocks; criminalization of seed saving and exchange practices; and weakened government ability to support national agriculture.
The report stresses that strong national policies are needed to support sustainable production by smallholder farmers; however, such polices should not be dictated by international donors. Rather, sound food security strategies should arise from national debates and policy-building processes that involve farmers and seek to address context-specific needs and demands.
With best wishes,
THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE, FIVE WESTERN DONORS SHAPE A PRO-CORPORATE AGENDA FOR AFRICAN AGRICULTURE
Five Western donors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the US, UK, Danish, and Dutch governments, are bankrolling the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project, implemented by the World Bank. The EBA’s goal is to help create “policies that facilitate doing business in agriculture and increase the investment attractiveness and competitiveness of countries.” To achieve this, the EBA benchmarks areas including seeds, fertilizers, markets, transport, machinery, and finance, to determine whether or not countries’ laws facilitate doing business in agriculture. The EBA exemplifies a growing trend in international donors’ aid programs, which have become powerful instruments to impose a market-based, pro-private sector vision of agriculture.
Following the 2007-2008 food price crisis, G8 members gathered at L’Aquila summit in Italy and pledged to support country-owned food security strategies. However, it did not take long for this commitment to give way to aid programs that, instead of supporting robust national agriculture policies, favor private sector-led and market-driven food systems. In 2012, the G8 members launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN), an initiative that gives a central place to agroindustry and agrochemical companies, to the detriment of family farmers.
Africa, the site of NAFSN implementation, is a primary target of the pro-corporate push by several Western donors. The continent is marked by the proliferation of bilateral and multilateral initiatives to support the expansion of agribusinesses and the increased use of industrial inputs (synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, hybrid and genetically modified seeds, etc.). The US, UK, Danish, and Dutch governments are providing direct financing through business grants and other support mechanisms such as loans and insurance to agribusinesses operating in Africa. Often, the recipients of aid money are national companies with an assumed goal to combine aid with commercial interests.
In parallel, rising amounts of taxpayers’ money is flowing into multilaterally funded entities such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), active in training, research, and advocacy around the use of hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers. AGRA is also a vehicle used to manage multi-donor initiatives such as the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), which is investing in large-scale agricultural projects and industrial production of agricultural inputs.
With the creation of the NAFSN, in which the EBA is entrenched, donors are increasingly conditioning their aid to African countries to policy reforms and measures that will facilitate the corporate takeover of their agriculture. The five donors of the EBA are spearheading an aggressive campaign, aimed at pushing to expand agribusiness activity in Africa through the takeover of land for commercial agriculture, opening of countries’ input markets, privatizing of seed systems, and reforms of agricultural trade and tax laws to boost corporate profit.
The donors believe that an “agricultural transformation” based on global trade and agroindustry will increase economic growth and provide better incomes to farmers. But the impacts of such a transformation are likely to be devastating for the majority of African farmers. Rising pressure on land and natural resources; dependence on expensive and polluting agricultural inputs; increased vulnerability to climate shocks; criminalization of seed saving and exchange practices; and weakened government ability to support national agriculture are among the outcomes that the five donors investigated in this report will deliver to the continent.
The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture, a new report released today by the Oakland Institute, exposes how a coalition of four donor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of developing countries, especially in Africa.
“‘Enabling Business’ has become a buzzword for development agencies, but it is vital to understand what this entails,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “Our research shows that, in order to foster private investments, governments are being forced to open their agricultural sector to seed, pesticide and fertilizer corporations, release land for commercial agriculture, and reduce taxes and tariffs for agribusinesses. In short, facilitate the destruction of family farming and natural resources for the sake of corporate profit.”
The Unholy Alliance comes as the G7 leaders gather at their summit in Ise-Shima, Japan, on May 26, 2016. A meeting of the G7 Agriculture Ministers preceded the grand gathering—for the first time in seven years. While this might suggest that food and agriculture is of concern to the rich nations, their track record suggests otherwise.
Instead of following through on the $20 billion commitment to support “country-owned” food security strategies, agreed upon at the 2009 L’Aquila Summit, rich nations have made an unprecedented push to favor private sector and market-driven food systems through aid programs.
The 2012 G8 initiative, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in partnership with agribusinesses, aimed at increasing private investments in Africa’s agriculture. The imposition of this agenda comes with new aid conditionality. In order to receive aid through the New Alliance, African partner countries have to commit to reforms to facilitate business in agriculture. Globally, reforms are to be guided by a business ranking of countries that the G8 tasked the World Bank to put in place. The “Enabling the Business of Agriculture” (EBA) index, launched in 2013, is financed by the US, UK, Danish, and Dutch governments along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
These five donors are rapidly expanding bilateral and multilateral ‘aid’ programs to support corporate agriculture. Through aid-funded grants, loans, or insurance mechanisms, taxpayers’ money is increasingly subsidizing agribusinesses’ activities. Promotion of hybrid and GMO seeds, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers by such aid programs is turning Africa into a new market for agrichemical corporations. “Opening markets and creating space for multinationals to secure profits is leading to blatant land grabs across the continent, displacing farmers from their lands and imposing large-scale production structures for export,” said Mariam Mayet, director of the African Center for Biodiversity, which works to dismantle inequalities in the food and agricultural systems in Africa.
“Many farmers are marginalized by growing concentration and corporate control over seeds, land, and water and forced into poorly paid and insecure wage work. All historical and cultural connection to the land is being severed by commodification and commercialization, a result of promotion of self-interest by a few rich nations,” Mayet continued.