Soil Fertility: Agro-Ecology and NOT the Green Revolution for Africa

In mid July the African Center for Biodiversity(ABC) published Soil Fertility: Agro-Ecology and Not the Green Revolution for Africa, a comprehensive report on the consequences of the Green Revolution push in Africa, based on it’s fieldwork done in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe over the last three years.The report asserts that the promotion of increased synthetic fertilizer use in Africa for enhancing soil fertility is a short term fix, and is actually harmful in the long term.

Interventions pushing for high tech solutions such as genetically modified seeds, increased pesticide use and increased use of synthetic fertilizers have been spearheaded by fertilizer giant Yara, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa(AGRA), an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The ABC believes that, “the obsession with increasing
adoption and uptake of synthetic fertilizers on the continent seems to be more about opening up fertilizer markets for multinational corporations, and stimulating commercial output markets than about identifying and responding to the specific needs of farmers in their socio-ecological context.”

Soil life is easily disrupted through one size fits all applications of synthetic fertilizers for short term gains in yield. In Malawi for example, the country has increased yields on a macro level due to the use of such fertilizers, but individual farmers are seeing the quality of their soil decrease, and are struggling to make ends meet. Since the price of synthetic fertilizer makes up a huge expense for the farmers, while imprinting them with the idea that it’s impossible to farm without it. The ABC, as well as AGRA Watch, agree that analysis of specific nutrient requirements for a given place and time are the only way to improve soil quality, and address the needs of farmers.


Cover Crops: A Simple Solution to Degrading Soil Quality

Photo Credit: Food First

Roland Bunch, a researcher and activist for Food First, published a report focused on fact that in Sub-Saharan Africa smallholder farmer’s lands have gotten smaller on average due to population increase and growing amounts of wasteland. This decrease in the size of farms has resulted in the decline of the practice of letting a large portion of such land lie fallow for years at a time, while farmers are able to feed themselves and their families with the rest of it. Without letting their lands have a rest, Bunch says, the soil quality which has held steady for some 3000 years is now declining from overuse.  

In his report, Green Manure Crops in Africa: A Report from the Field, Bunch detailed his agroecological approach to educating smallholder farmers about the use of green manure, also known as cover crops(GM/CC), which can be grown in tandem with the farmer’s regular crops. Bunch found that the right green manure/cover crop for the specific region can return nutrients to the soil while growing usable foods for local communities.
Bunch has been investigating the use of planting crops that can fertilize the soil since the early eighties. Working with an independent group of agronomists from Brazil, he has led an effort to put these methods on the agendas of prominent development agencies. He was also very important to the introduction of the campesino a campesino(farmer to farmer) movement in Central and Southern America; cover crops were a central part of that movement.

 

 

 


Smallholder support at the Crossroads: Diminishing returns from Green Revolution Seed and Fertilizer Subsidies and the Agro-Ecological Alternative

Zimbabwe-report-2016On April 30, 2016, The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) released a report on the the impacts of the Green Revolution on small-scale farming and related socio-ecological contexts. The research is part of a three year multi-country initiative that engages farmers, farmer associations, farmer support organizations, extension workers, scientists, donors, and government officials. Following initial conversations with Zimbabwean civil society organizations (CSOs), the report works to highlight the potential areas for further work with regard to seed policies in the region.

The full report can be found at http://acbio.org.za/wp
-content/uploads/2016/04/Zimbabwe-report-2016.pdf


Taking A Stand for Small Farmers: Agroecology Learning Exchange

 

Pic-from-Uganda-Meeting-300x169The Agroecology Fund and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) hosted a learning exchange summit from May 10-13, 2016.  Farmers and farmer advocates convened in Masaka, Uganda, with the collective vision to “amplify agroecology solutions.”  Attendees documented the summit using the hashtag #AgroecologyVoices. 
The Agroecology Fund is a multi-donor fund committed to supporting and encouraging the established practices of local farmers and their communities globally. It aims to sustain viable food systems, promote the economic well-being of small farmers and their communities, and address climate change. 
CAGJ and AFSA have collaborated in the past, most recently at the Fall 2014 US-Africa Food Summit.
agro summit.jpg
Farmer voices and photos of the summit can be found at https://storify.com/IDEX/taking-a-stand-for-small-farmers.

EU Parliament Agrees With a Report that’s Highly Critical of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

 

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March 2014, World Development Movement(WDM) campaigners(above, below) dressed as business people from Monsanto, Diageo, SABMiller and Unilever delivered a cake to the  Department For International Development to “thank” the UK government for its support in allowing them to carve up Africa.
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In early June the EU Parliament voted to accept a report put out by it’s development committee, in which The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an initiative of the Obama administration and the G-8, including the Gates Foundation, was heavily criticized for being ineffective as a means for improving world development.

In their article, EU parliament slams aid scheme that uses big agribusiness to ‘feed Africa’, Global Justice Now applauded the decision, as does AGRA Watch, agreeing that the New Alliance is an initiative meant to benefit big agribusiness instead of helping small-scale farmers, and vulnerable communities. It’s past time that world governments are held responsible for the funding of such initiatives that serve their own business interests over those of farmers and local communities.

The EU has spent over one billion dollars implementing the New Alliance, and the UK Department for International Development(DFID) is responsible for sending $600 million to date.

The report detailed many negative consequences of the initiative, and even called some of them “unintended”, although it suggested that the New Alliance served as “little more than a means of promotion for the companies involved and a chance to increase their influence in policy debates.”


Bill Gates on the “Best Practices” for the Developing World

Pushing Pro-Business Policy Change by Funding a Pro-Business Ratings System

 

Bill Gates and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at a live panel discussion titled, “A New Vision for Financing Development with Bill Gates.”  Photo credit: The World Bank

 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation(BMGF) is a major donor to a World Bank affiliate known as Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA), a group that rates 40 developing countries on their policies that affect agriculture and agribusiness markets. The Oakland Institute, a partner of AGRA Watch, critiqued the connection in their April article, With a Little Help From Bill Gates, The World Bank Creates it’s Own Aid Conditionality. According to the EBA, it’s mission is “…identifying and monitoring regulations that negatively affect agriculture and agribusiness markets.” It frames these ratings as a way to encourage higher levels of food production, believing that this will combat world hunger, claiming that it’s encouraging countries to become more efficient, while “increasing market competitiveness and growth”. The Oakland Institute, as well as the UN disagree with this idea, understanding that hunger is not caused by insufficient food production.

The Oakland Institute previously reported that the EBA’s predecessor, the Doing Business index, caused an estimated 525 policy changes that had the intended effect of reducing or getting rid of developing countries’ regulations on protecting local economies, and environments.

During a panel at the World Bank’s Spring Meetings in Washington DC, Bill Gates pushed his view that the forward path for world development was to use the Gates Foundation’s expertise to encourage developing countries to adopt the “best practices” for business and investment, wielding the influence of development aid for the goal of “reforming the system”. Both Gates and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim ignored the views of the Global South, as expressed by their co-panelist, Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, who called for development efforts to support the policies that developing countries actually want.

The Gates Foundation is contributing to a very problematic reality here. The EBA encourages reduced government oversight of agriculture, and agribusiness, and Gates’ economic power results in his being treated as an “expert” in the field of development aid, entitling him to disregard the objections of his colleague from the Global South. This power difference between the development agencies, the corporations and wealthy individuals benefiting from programs like the EBA, versus  the very countries this development is supposed to assist, results in a system that continuously disempowers developing countries instead of empowering them as AGRA Watch believes it should.

 


Pro-GMO Propaganda Campaign Attacks Greenpeace Over “Golden Rice”

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The latest update in an ongoing pro-GMO campaign uses Nobel laureates to claim that Greenpeace is blocking the introduction of genetically modified Golden Rice into the market, while ignoring that globally, groups have criticized the legitimacy and effectiveness of this product. Respected commentators, Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, expose the Golden Rice sham and the players behind the campaign.

Robinson’s post features University of Washington anthropologist and friend of CAGJ, Devon Peña, who breaks down why the laureates in question do not have the qualifications to push for this GM product.

Links to the articles can be found below:

Pro-GMO campaign exploits Nobel laureates to attack Greenpeace and fool the people

107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators

 


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