The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), a non-profit organization based in South Africa that provides information, research, and policy analysis regarding social justice, genetic engineering and ecological sustainability, recently published a critique of AGRA’s “African Agricultural Status Report 2013,” entitled, “Giving With One Hand and Taking With Two.” In their critique, they summarize and analyze AGRA’s report in an attempt to answer important questions regarding AGRA’s plan to increase circulation of private capital in order to increase agricultural production on the continent.
ACB investigates the proposed use of public funds, the distribution of benefits resulting from increased circulation of private capital, and AGRA’s basic assumption that increased agricultural production benefits all. They note that AGRA proposes the channeling of public resources toward projects and policies that will lead to profitability, indicating a benefit for commercial farmers who use high-input farming methods at the expense of farmers who are not in the position to produce as businesses. In addressing the distribution of benefits, ACB notes that with the injection of private capital, which is the basis of AGRA’s plan, the farmer will always have to give up a portion of their revenue or product to the owner of said capital. ACB emphasizes the importance of finding ways to increase productivity where the value created can stay with the producers and not go to investors. Further indicating an unfavorable distribution of benefits, ACB notes that some of AGRA’s interventions, most notably their push for seed harmonization, will have direct negative impacts on small-scale farmers because of new regulatory and legal obstacles that would inhibit these farmers’ current practices.
According to ACB, AGRA’s assumption that everyone benefits from increased production is erroneous. AGRA’s strategy is not only an inappropriate intervention for African agriculture but their focus on industrial agriculture ignores the importance of diversity in ecological agriculture, and the facts that farmers’ practices are time tested and have adapted to fit into local socio-ecological contexts for thousands of years. ACB suggests working with farmers to strengthen current practices instead of starting from scratch with AGRA’s industrial agricultural plan.
AGRA Watch’s newest intern, Tyler White, provided this analysis. To find out more about ACB’s report, please visit http://www.acbio.org.za