Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One.org's Agricultural Policy - Critical Analysis

I am always excited about prospects for linking organic gardening with sustainable development, and appreciate any connection we can make between our own struggles for a sustainable local food system with the subsistence struggles of farmers in developing countries.

That said, I am fairly convinced at this point that One.org is not acting in the best interests of sustainability or resilience--economic or ecological--for Africa or for ourselves. Their long-term plans for developing Africa's agriculture seem by all accounts to be focusing on "green revolution" style improvements, including GM corn crops, subsidized inputs of patented seeds and chemical fertilizers, and partnerships with Agribusiness giants Monsanto and Cargill. There are also indications that the organization supports structural adjustment policies that force developing nations to remove tariffs and open up their ag markets to the fluctuations of global commodity prices.

I took some time to research this before writing, as I wanted to make sure it wasn't just hearsay. The fact is, One.org and their grantmakers and board members -- including AGRA (Gates Foundation) and the U.S. government's "Feed the Future" initiative -- are very guarded about the details of what they are actually doing on the ground in Africa. I did manage to find some good indications that the worst is true. Below are some excerpts and links to the most legitimate of the articles and documents I could find.

Different Shade of Green in Africa
Time article that covers the competing perspectives on sustainable agricultural development, with AGRA (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation→One.org) falling solidly on the Big Ag/GMO/chemical inputs side of the argument rather than the ecological agriculture side; also includes a disturbing indication of the ongoing costs that small farmers will incur under the new system.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Agricultural Development Strategy Overview:
"$39.1 million - Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) - African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) - This project seeks to develop drought-tolerant maize varieties to benefit smallholder African farmers in five countries. A portion of this grant funds research that uses transgenic approaches. (Monsanto is a subcontractor to AATF on this grant.)"

One.org policy brief:
"The private sector is a key component needed to drive growth, create markets, and improve food security by creating employment opportunities and reducing barriers to agricultural trade. The Asian and Latin American "Green Revolutions" that increased incomes and access to food for an estimated 1 billion people was underpinned by public and private investments in research, irrigation, infrastructure and extension. Therefore, investments are needed across the African agriculture sector for improving suitable seeds and fertilizers, farming practices, storage, processing, distribution and marketing…"

Huffington Post article:
"If you had any doubts about where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is really placing its bets, AGRA Watch's recent announcement of the Foundation's investment of $23.1 million in 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock should put them to rest. Genetic engineering: full speed ahead."

Guardian article:
“South Africa-based watchdog the African Centre for Biosafety then found that the foundation was teaming up with Cargill in a $10m project to "develop the soya value chain" in Mozambique and elsewhere. Who knows what this corporate-speak really means, but in all probability it heralds the big time introduction of GM soya in southern Africa."

Monsanto blog post supporting One.org: 'Nuff said.

Statement by Dr. Hans Herrens, chief editor of the most comprehensive survey of agricultural development strategies to date, the 600 page “Agriculture at a Crossroads” report by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD):
"More revealing than what is said (or not said) in Feed the Future, is how it is interpreted. According to USAID, FTF will “build on breakthroughs in science and technology,” to be "delivered to" small-scale agricultural producers - which seems to belie the words about participation and recognizing local and Indigenous knowledge that appeared in the Summary document (the Country Investment Plans). There is no mention of agroecological farming or ecological agriculture and neither any of the IAASTD, the most comprehensive assessment of agricultural knowledge, science and technology published in the past couple of years, or actually anytime. There is no mention of addressing inequity in trade arrangements or within or between countries. Rather, the emphasis is on "agriculture-led growth" through "trade and other mechanisms," "seeking reductions in government controls on commodity prices,” and “protecting intellectual property.” The focus throughout is rather vaguely on building partnerships with everyone -- with the World Bank, IFAD, private sector, NGOs, etc. Special emphasis is given to investing in the WB's Global Ag & Food Security Program (GAFSP) which allows only minimal and carefully controlled inputs from civil society and which many see as the WB's way of funneling more investments towards transgenic, nanotech & other converging technologies."

And for your perusal, if you're as much an Ag nerd as I am: International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD):
The objective of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) was to assess the impacts of past, present and future agricultural knowledge, science and technology on the
• reduction of hunger and poverty,
• improvement of rural livelihoods and human health, and
• equitable, socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development.

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