Corporate profit from South Africa’s smallholder farmers support programs

 

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Image credits: African Centre for Biodiversity

 

The African Centre for Biodiversity recently examined South Africa’s smallholder support programs. These funds are supposed to serve 300,000 smallholder farmers in the country and enhance their ability to feed themselves and their communities. Their report,“Input supply in South Africa’s smallholder farmer support programmes: A tale of neo-apartheid plans, dodgy dealings and corporate captureshows a lack of government transparency, pro-corporate policies, and the use of GM seeds in farmer support. The history of South Africa’s agriculture started with colonialism, with the majority of white farmers operating large-scale commercial farms and black farmers working small farms. Unfortunately, this pattern has mostly persisted into the current day. Although there are a number of farmer support programs including land access, extension and training, production support, input supply, mechanization, irrigation, financing, infrastructure and market support, the research focuses on agricultural inputs (specifically seed, fertilizer, and pesticides) since this is the area where corporations benefit the most. As producers of seed, fertilizer, and pesticides, corporations benefit from public subsidies that are meant to support small farmers. Monsanto and the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project are prominent beneficiaries here. Read more about South Africa’s farmer support programs on the African Centre for Biodiversity website here.

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Article Series on South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange

Welcome to our homepage for the International Agroecology Exchange – Reflections from the US Delegation to South Africa

2017 South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange

In October 2017, seven delegates from the US representing farmworker and African-American farmer organizations participated in the second South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange. For 10 days, the delegates visited the provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo, and the Western Cape to meet with small farmers, farmworkers, Agroecologists, and organizers in the Food Sovereignty movement. Together they learned and exchanged social, political, and technical aspects of Agroecology. The 2017 Agroecology Exchange was co-organized by US Food Sovereignty Alliance members WhyHunger (NY), Community Alliance for Global Justice (WA), and Farmworker Association of Florida, and South Africa-based Surplus Peoples Project.  (Please read this press release for more background and see photos from the Exchange.)

Article Series

Starting in November and ending in January, members of the delegation will author a series of articles reflecting on different aspects of the Exchange. They will share how their trip to South Africa shaped new ideas, tactics, connections, and other means of continued engagement in the global Food Sovereignty movement, and how they’re bringing these insights to their local organizing.

The series will also include perspectives on Agroecology in South Africa after learning from on-the-ground practitioners involved in organizations including Surplus Peoples Project, Mopani Farmers Association, African Centre for Biodiversity, Ithemba Farmers Association, the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union, Mawubuye, Trust for Community Organization and Education, Rural Legal Centre, and others.

Article Series November 2017 through January 2018

Update: Links to published articles:

  1. Restoring my Indigeneity: Reflections on South Africa Agroecology Exchange by a Queer Black Urban Farmer  By Dean Jackson, Executive Director of Hilltop Urban Gardens in Tacoma, Washington
  2. Farmworkers Resist and Organize: Connected Struggles for Farmworker Justice in South Africa and the US  By Edgar Franks, Organizer with Community to Community Development in Bellingham, WA
  3. Thoughts on Intimacy with Food, Land, and Women from South Africa: “Where there are women you can never go wrong.” By Alsie Parks, Field Organizer for Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network (SAAFON)
  4. Justina’s Reflections on the US-South Africa Agroecology Exchange By Justina Ramirez, Community Leader with Farmworker Association of Florida
  5. En La Lucha No Hay Fronteras, In The Struggle There Are No Borders By Kathia Ramirez, Organizer, CATA (Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas/ The Farmworkers’ Support Committee)
  6. Farming with Influence By Shalon Jones, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives

Please help distribute these necessary analyses on the importance of Agroecological Farming!

Agroecology is an agricultural method based on the traditional knowledge of those who cultivate the land. Its practice is critical to addressing hunger, cooling the planet, and increasing communities’ access to basic resources such as land, water, and seeds. The increased corporatization of agriculture in Africa and the US sidelines small-and-medium sized family farmers in service to increased profits for agribusiness. The South Africa-US Agroecology Exchanges exists to directly confront this trend and to exchange experiences, tools, and strategies for resistance and to strengthen the Food Sovereignty movement.

Corporate supply chains and hunger in Zambia

 

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Image credit: African Centre for Biodiversity

 

Last month, the African Centre for Biodiversity published a study “Green Innovation Centre in Zambia: Fighting Hunger through Corporate Supply Chains?” in collaboration with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. The study takes a look at the Green Innovation Center and its advancement of the Green Revolution.

The One World No Hunger (OWNH) program is a project of the German government, influencing Zambia’s agricultural development. The program’s Green Innovation Center (GIC), with a budget of 266.5 million euros, maintains a project in Zambia implemented by the German Gesellschaft für Zussamenarbeit (GIZ). The aim of the GIC is to provide support for smallholder farmers to integrate into commercial value chains operating at the regional, national, and global scale. GIC partners work with farmers to increase soya and groundnut production in the Eastern province and dairy in the South. They claim that training and connecting smallholder farmers to larger markets will increase their incomes and therefore solve hunger in the region. However, the majority of farmers cannot access these commercial markets, and will not see the benefits from this program. Even for participating farmers, they are negatively impacted by volatile global markets and will be forced to take lower prices due to the size and strength of transnational food corporations like Parmalat (a dairy partner in Zambia).

The Green Innovation Center is pushing for a Green Revolution in Zambia where agriculture is treated as a business and tool for economic development. This is yet another program that claims to solve the issue of hunger by privileging a small portion of farmers to get connected to commercial value chains while ignoring decentralized informal markets. In Zambia, 70% of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods or food access and 80% of the market is informal. Clearly, the solution to hunger will not come from connecting a select few into corporate supply chains. Read more about the work of the Green Innovation Center on the African Centre for Biodiversity website here.

Farming with Influence: South Africa Agroecology Exchange Article Series

By Shalon Jones, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives

Sixth in the South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange Article Series

In October 2017, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a US-South Africa Agroecology Exchange, representing the Mississippi Association of Southern Cooperatives alongside Mr. Ben Burkett.  With much excitement and anticipation, many thoughts ran across my mind. Although this was a journey to gain understanding, knowledge, and bring awareness, this experience was soon to turn into a revelation.

I was always a person who loved embarking on opportunities and enthusiastically willing to learn new things. My most recent work allowed me to engage with many individuals and families about healthy eating tips and how to break unhealthy eating habits growing up. In the province of Limpopo, after visiting the Maphata Herbs Project, organized by a member of the Mopani Farmers Association named Olga, I began to see the remedy was literally at home. I toured a beautiful garden filled with homegrown herbs and vegetables. All created for prevention and healing. While witnessing all the great things in Olga’s own yard, I began to think about my uncle, whose life ended due to prostate cancer illness.  Right in the midst of walking through the yard there was this thought: “If I had this knowledge, could we have prevented or helped him be with us longer?” Every part of the tour was filled with enthusiasm and love. Thinking about my work, I think about how I’ve been giving the communities I serve and even myself an injustice. Not only do we need to support local farmers but learn how to grow for ourselves. This will not only help us, but everyone connected to us.

Another impactful moment was with another female farmer, Ms. Rikhotso Tintswalo Mallina, a community resident and Mopani Farmers Association member that organically grows over 20 different fruits and vegetables. In spite of her lack of resources, Ms. Rikhotso has found ways to keep her garden flourishing with a variety of produce that not only feeds her family but the community as well.

Both of these farmers’ undeniable influence and compassion is appreciated throughout their villages and now has crossed over to the USA. While there were many more moments worth telling, both experiences have caused me to not use my current apartment living as an excuse not to plant.  Once arriving back in Louisiana, I planted broccoli, lettuce, and rosemary.

Now when I walk out my door I will think about who inspired me!  It was all because of our South African comrades inspiring us to continue to fight for what’s best! Ms. Rithotso stated, “when I met the MFA, I began to understand that it was possible.” I’m glad to say “when I met my fellow comrades, I understand that it really is possible.”

With much gratitude,

Shalon Jones

Delegates from the 2017 South Africa-US Agroecology Exchange are authoring a series of articles reflecting on different aspects of the Exchange. In the series, they share how their trip to South Africa shaped new ideas, tactics, connections, and other means of continued engagement in the global Food Sovereignty movement, and how they’re bringing these insights to their local organizing. Read the first article in the series by Dean Jackson here, the second article by Edgar Franks here, the third article by Alsie Parks here, the fourth article by Justina Ramirez here, and the fifth article by Kathia Ramirez here.

Support an end to the World Bank’s “Enabling the Business of Agriculture”

“The revelations that led to this week’s resignation of World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer point to flawed methodology and political manipulation in the World Bank’s Doing Business report. Romer admitted that the Doing Business rankings may have been manipulated to make Chile’s economic environment look worse under the sitting socialist president Michelle Bachelet.

These revelations add to a long list of concerns that have been raised by civil society in recent years. The Our Land Our Business campaign was launched in 2014 to demand the end of the Bank’s Doing Business rankings. Over 280 organizations, including NGOs, unions, farmers, and consumer groups from over 80 countries have joined this call so far.”

The campaign “Our Land, Our Business” launched by the Oakland Institute in 2014, draws attention to the World Bank’s rating system that rewards the deregulation of business laws around the world. Last year, CAGJ published a blog post detailing how the World Bank’s “Enabling the Business of Agriculture” indicators affect the lives of smallholders in Africa.
Read more on the Oakland Institute’s campaign to end the World Bank’s business rating systems here.

Art and Activism at the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration

 

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Image credit: African Centre for Biodiversity

 

A new blog, published by Claire Rousell with the African Centre for Biodiversity reflects on the role of art in activism. During the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration, hosted by ACB at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg in December 2017, performers shared their stories of farming and food sovereignty through dance and music. The reflections in the blog remind us that while scientific evidence can be persuasive, art has the ability to reach people on a deeper, more intrinsic level. Read the blog here

Status report from the African Centre for Biodiversity asesses impact of harmonized seed regulations on small farmers

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A new status report, researched and written by Linzi Lewis and Sabrina Masinjila of the African Centre for Biodiversity, reviews the seed harmonization efforts of the South African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC). Seed harmonization efforts focus on the regulation of seed laws across Eastern and Southern Africa to facilitate trade through formal markets. Seed harmonization focuses on three areas: variety testing, registration and release, seed certification and phytosanitary measures. All of these procedures present significant financial barriers to small farmers to enter these formal markets. Historically, smallholder farmers have used farmer managed seed systems (FMSS) to access and trade local varieties. These systems still remain vital today, as roughly 90% of seeds are sourced from informal systems, and 60% come from local markets. It’s clear that these seed harmonization efforts are another extension of Green Revolution ideology, meant to facilitate the trade of corporate seeds and benefit large agribusiness while ignoring the importance of farmer managed seed systems.
Read and download the full report from the African Center for Biodiversity here: https://acbio.org.za/status-report-sadc-comesa-eac-harmonised-seed-trade-regulations-leave-regions-smallholder-farmers/?utm_source=phplist71&utm_medium=email&utm_content=HTML&utm_campaign=Status+report+on+the+SADC%2C+COMESA+and+EAC+harmonised+seed+trade+regulations%3A+Where+does+this+leave+the+regions%E2%80%99+smallholder+farmers%3F