Africa grabbing | Economic colonialism

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, is a G7/G8-led scheme, masquerading as an aid programme is serving up African nations on a silver platter—to Big-Seed/Big-Ag corporations. The deal threatens to rob and imprison farmers needing aid, while growing profits for various Ag-based giants.

A list of the organisations involved includes the names of the usual Big-Ag/Food/Bank corporations lurking behind such schemes: Monsanto; Syngenta; Caygill; Nestle; Swiss Re … it’s a war against tradition: self-reliant peasant agriculture.

The GuardianEuropean parliament slams G7 food project in Africa

Tanzania recently enacted a law that criminalised seed sharing, an ancient agricultural practice that is widespread in many parts of the world and critical to local farming. Under the new legislation, if a farmer buys seeds from Monsanto or Syngenta, those companies retain the intellectual property rights. For instance, if a farmer saves some seeds from the first harvest, those seeds can only be used on that farmer’s land for non-commercial purposes. This new law threatens an essential practice for many of these farmers.

The penalty for sharing seeds is twelve years in prison or a fine of over 200,000 euros. The average wage of a farmer in Tanzania is two dollars a day.

According to news reports, about 90% of African farmers depend on their seeds for survival. The informal sale or exchange of seeds allows farmers to be independent from the commercial seed business, while allowing poor farmers to have resilient crops at affordable prices. Eliminating seed-sharing closes off a fundamental source of revenue for poor farmers.

Tanzania did not enact this law out of thin air. An aid programme launched by the G8 (the US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, the European Union, and Russia) in 2012, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN), promises aid in the form of agricultural investment to the ten African member countries, but only on the condition that countries receiving aid enact political reforms that help Big-Ag at the expense of small farmers who produce 70% of the world’s food.

Launched in 2012, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition provides aid money from rich countries like the US and the UK, and helps big business invest in the African agricultural sector. But in return, African countries are required to change their land, seed and trade rules in favour of big business.

By 2013 ten African countries had signed up: Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Nigeria and Senegal. Around 50 multinational companies including Monsanto, Cargill and Unilever, and around 100 African companies, are also involved.

A few years on and evidence is mounting against the New Alliance.

A recent report from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact condemned the New Alliance as “little more than a means of promotion for the companies involved and a chance to increase their influence in policy debates”.

This excerpt from The Guardian says it all:

[NAFSN] will lock poor farmers into buying increasingly expensive seeds – including genetically modified seeds – allow corporate monopolies in seed selling, and escalate the loss of precious genetic diversity in seeds – absolutely key in the fight against hunger. It will also open the door to genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa by stopping farmers’ access to traditional local varieties and forcing them to buy private seeds.

NAFSN also calls for countries to help foreign investors take over agricultural lands. This “aid,” in short, is the wedge that Big-Ag and biotech companies are using to get a stronger foothold in Africa, leading many critics to call the schemes a “new wave of colonialism.” We tend to agree. Depriving farmers of their livelihood is hardly a way to battle poverty and hunger.

The New Alliance will:

  • Make it easier for big corporations to grab land in Africa.
  • Prevent farmers from breeding, saving and exchanging seeds.
  • Heavily promote chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which increase farmers’ risk of debt as well as damaging the environment and farmers’ health.
  • Replace family farms with low paid, insecure jobs.
  • Prevent countries from restricting crop exports, even at times of domestic shortage

Much of the aid money and investment promised as part of the New Alliance prioritises crops for export, including tobacco, palm oil and biofuel crops, rather than supporting small farmers to grow crops sustainably for local consumption.

Forfeit local sovereignty

70% of Africa’s food is produced by small-scale farmers who grow nutritious food without harming their health or the environment. And they can keep control over their land, seed and soil in line with the principles of food sovereignty.

Unsurprisingly, there are already reports that NAFSN is failing. Canadian authorities conducted a review of NAFSN’s progress in Senegal. The Canadian government concluded that there was no evidence that NAFSN “was effective in reducing poverty, improving food security and nutrition, or addressing the challenges faced by women in the Senegalese context.”

This story underscores the depths to which biotech companies like Monsanto and Syngenta will sink to, and why they must be vigorously opposed at every opportunity. Not only have they proven to be reckless with our health, they are intentional about attacking the livelihoods of some of our planet’s neediest.

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