By Sarah Herrington, AGRA Watch Intern
In August, the African Centre for Biodiversity released a report titled N2Africa, The Gates Foundation and legume commercialization in Africa, as a result of a 3 year research program. This report focuses on the N2Africa program, which claims to be an initiative for the development and distribution of new legume varieties, as well as promotion of the use of inoculants and synthetic fertilizers, in order to develop a commercial legume market for smallholders. The program is backed by a conglomerate of organizations, including the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), public research institutions, farmer associations, and universities. The majority of funding, however, comes directly from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with smaller donations from its affiliate, the Howard G. Warren Foundation.
Legumes have a long history as a food source in Africa due to their high nutritional value. Although the development of new legume varieties offers possibilities for nutritional and ecological benefits for smallholders and the African population, the program follows the pattern of other Green Revolution initiatives – resulting in problems such as economic instability, land holding risks, and misplaced objectives. This report outlines the problematic potentials of the N2Africa Program as well as projected outcomes. The report points out the parameters that should be recognized as the primary goals of the initiative (the nutritional and ecological benefits) and how these parameters are actually thrown into a secondary category of developmental goals, behind international commercial market development.