Oakland, CA—The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture, a new report released today by the Oakland Institute, exposes how a coalition of four donor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of developing countries, especially in Africa.
“‘Enabling Business’ has become a buzzword for development agencies, but it is vital to understand what this entails,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “Our research shows that, in order to foster private investments, governments are being forced to open their agricultural sector to seed, pesticide and fertilizer corporations, release land for commercial agriculture, and reduce taxes and tariffs for agribusinesses. In short, facilitate the destruction of family farming and natural resources for the sake of corporate profit.”
The Unholy Alliance comes as the G7 leaders gather at their summit in Ise-Shima, Japan, on May 26, 2016. A meeting of the G7 Agriculture Ministers preceded the grand gathering—for the first time in seven years. While this might suggest that food and agriculture is of concern to the rich nations, their track record suggests otherwise.
Instead of following through on the $20 billion commitment to support “country-owned” food security strategies, agreed upon at the 2009 L’Aquila Summit, rich nations have made an unprecedented push to favor private sector and market-driven food systems through aid programs.
The 2012 G8 initiative, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in partnership with agribusinesses, aimed at increasing private investments in Africa’s agriculture. The imposition of this agenda comes with new aid conditionality. In order to receive aid through the New Alliance, African partner countries have to commit to reforms to facilitate business in agriculture. Globally, reforms are to be guided by a business ranking of countries that the G8 tasked the World Bank to put in place. The “Enabling the Business of Agriculture” (EBA) index, launched in 2013, is financed by the US, UK, Danish, and Dutch governments along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
These five donors are rapidly expanding bilateral and multilateral ‘aid’ programs to support corporate agriculture. Through aid-funded grants, loans, or insurance mechanisms, taxpayers’ money is increasingly subsidizing agribusinesses’ activities. Promotion of hybrid and GMO seeds, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers by such aid programs is turning Africa into a new market for agrichemical corporations. “Opening markets and creating space for multinationals to secure profits is leading to blatant land grabs across the continent, displacing farmers from their lands and imposing large-scale production structures for export,” said Mariam Mayet, director of the African Center for Biodiversity, which works to dismantle inequalities in the food and agricultural systems in Africa.
“Many farmers are marginalized by growing concentration and corporate control over seeds, land, and water and forced into poorly paid and insecure wage work. All historical and cultural connection to the land is being severed by commodification and commercialization, a result of promotion of self-interest by a few rich nations,” Mayet continued.
Source: Global Policy Forum
|Picture Credit: flickr.com/Scott Butner|
Huge companies like Cargill, Nestle, Monsanto, ConAgra, and Archer Daniels Midland dominate the world’s food system. They control very large shares of the international markets for grains, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds, and they are involved in the food system from the farm to the supermarket. Farm equipment manufacturers, such as giant Deere & Company, are also influential, as are the big food retailers. Hedge funds and other investment firms are rapidly creating a global market for agricultural land, bringing other powerful actors into the food system. These companies shape government food policy. They squeeze out small farmers, promote energy-hungry industrial agriculture and create an unsustainable system of production and distribution.
Is the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutritions suitable for combating poverty? (July 18, 2013)
A new policy paper published by the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development argues that the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa will not be able to combat hunger and food insecurity in Africa. On the contrary, the paper, to which Global Policy Forum contributed, points out that the New Alliance is mainly focused on providing multinationals with opportunities to reap profits through the creation of environments conducive to investment. Thus, the paper calls for either a radical reform of the New Alliance or its abolishment. (German NGO Forum on Environment and Development)
This article published by IRIN, a humanitarian news and analysis website affiliated with the UN, refers to a letter written by a group of African civil society organizations to the head of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which aims to spread the use of genetically modified crops on the continent. The article points to the dangers associated with GMO crops, the extent to which their benefits have been overstated and why this is the wrong approach to generate food security. (IRIN)
Germany’s fourth largest bank, DZ Bank, and its subsidiary Union Investment, have announced that they will no longer engage in speculation with agricultural commodities, according to the NGO foodwatch. DZ Bank confirmed this through a letter sent to foodwatch. DZ Bank is the latest of a number of institutes which have announced their decision to stop the process of food speculation. (Foodwatch)
Civil Society movements accused governments for protecting the interests of the biofuels industry rather than the interests of people pushed into hunger by biofuel policies at the Committee on World Food Security. (FIAN)
CIDSE, an alliance of 17 Catholic development agencies, recently published a briefing about its concerns around the G8’s “New Alliance of Food Security and Nutrition in Africa”. The New Alliance aims at enhancing food security by increasing private investments in the agricultural sector and market orientation. Even as it welcomes the New Alliances efforts to alleviate hunger, CIDSE expresses concerns about the vision and approach behind the G8 agenda. In the article “Whose Alliance? The G8 and the Emergence of a Global Corporate Regime for Agriculture” CIDSE raises questions about the coherence, sustainability, legitimacy and inclusiveness of the New Alliance policies.
Lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia is a Unesco world heritage site that has stayed largely unaffected for thousands of years and is known for its remote cultures and tribes. Now, human rights violations are rife in the area, as communities are displaced by the Ethiopian government to make way for foreign-owned large industrial farms. Soldiers have been bought in to oversee the transformation and are reported to be killing and imprisoning local people. The Omo river, which is the life-source for many of the tribes, is being redirected to the commercial farms through the building of a large dam, leaving communities with no water resources. The devastation of the land brings with it threats of famine and poverty. (Guardian)
In preparation of the G8 summit, the “Enough Food for Everyone If” campaign has bought world hunger on to the international political agenda. The annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos has also taken up the issue of food security. A recent report, “New Vision for Agriculture,” has been released in conjunction with the meeting and claims to place small-hold farmers at the center of the food system- an interesting position for a group that gathers the world’s largest corporations. The report recognizes the global importance of the world’s 500 million smallholders who produce food for nearly 70% of the population. It emphasizes the necessity for “collaborative action” between corporations and smallholders in order to engender food security, economic growth and environmental sustainability. However, the power dynamics of a “dialogue” between large agribusinesses and small-scale farmers are in reality unlikely to weigh in the latter’s favor, particularly with debates over land rights. (Al Jazeera)
The Mexican government is about to approve the large-scale release of genetically modified maize for commercial production. Agribusiness giants Monsanto, DuPont, Dow and others have requested the government to plant 2.4 million hectares of genetically engineered maize. This decision would have an irreversible impact on Mexican maize, and is a threat to food security in Mexico and globally. It will be impossible to maintain maize diversity when large corporations privatize and control the maize seed market. The Mexican Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (UCCS), GRAIN and other international organizations have put together a report urging the Mexican government to change track and protect the diversity of maize. (GRAIN)
A Malian government agency is diverting Niger River water to foreign agricultural development schemes. This threatens the livelihoods of many Malians. The foreign companies are constructing concrete dams and canals. During dry season up to 70 percent of the river’s flow could soon be used for the irrigation of these new projects. Nearly two million Malians live in the Niger delta, where most people get their livelihoods from farming and fishing. The government of Mali is determined to increase foreign investment for its agriculture and refuses to acknowledge the damage the water withdrawals will do to the delta. Jane Madgwick, head of Wetlands International argues that these projects will greatly decrease food security in the country. (National Geographic)
Who Will Feed China: Agribusiness or Its Own Farmers? Decisions in Beijing Echo Around the World (August 4, 2012)
The rising meat consumption by the Chinese urban population is impacting domestic and foreign agriculture due to China’s growing dependence on imports of animal feed. China’s opening of its market to cheap maize imports will push millions of Chinese households out of maize production and convert them into cheap laborers, displace communities and destroy local food systems in foreign countries to make way for exports. This decision is another example of China’s shift to industrial agriculture, which further strengthen a global corporate food system at the detriment of smallholder farmers. (Grain)
Investors in bio-energy have taken a strong interest in Cameroon because of the availability of land and rich soils for the cultivation of palm trees, cassava and jatropha, which are important materials for biofuel production. In particular, the French-owned Bollore Group has gained control of more than 80 percent of palm-oil production of this Central African country, mostly for export. The government of Cameroon says it views large-scale biofuel production as a means to reduce the national energy deficit and address climate change; however, pressure from investors may have played a part. Local communities are likely to face the risks of land dispossession, hunger and environmental damage as biofuel production increases. (AlertNet)
Giant agribusinesses such as Cargill, Monsanto and Yara take the center in “The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition,” a new food-aid effort for Africa launched at the recent G-8 summit in May. These companies have pledged $3 billion in new agriculture investments for the continent, most of which will be spent on building a foreign-owned fertilizer production facility. Instead of promoting for a sustainable food production, this initiative reinforces the power of agribusinesses to make profits at the expense of small-scale African farmers and local biodiversity. (Mother Jones)
Steady erosion of arable land due to rapid industrialization has prompted China to acquire land abroad to grow crops. About 8000 sq. kilometers of farmland worldwide have been snapped up by Chinese companies. But China is not the only nation looking to secure its food security by investing in foreign land. The US, the UK, Australia, India, and Saudi Arabia are all part of this larger trend. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Another Shady Land Deal in Africa, This One Assisted By the US Ambassador to Tanzania (December 30, 2011)
US-based company AgriSol Energy plans to “benefit and contribute” to Tanzania’s food needs by commercially developing a refugee resettlement area, which is home to more than 160,000 people. Alfonso Lenhardt, US ambassador to Tanzania, is in full support of the plan and claims that the land deal is in the best interest of the local population. However, the Oakland Institute, the leading think tank on land grabbing, argues that the deal will only generate significant profits for AgriSol. It will divert scarce public resources from small farmers to agribusinesses and adversely displace thousands of Tanzanians. (Treehugger)
Indian company Karuturi Global operates on 100,000 hectares in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. Known for it cut flower exports, the company is looking to expand to agri-business and plans to erect a sugarcane factory with the capacity to crush 7,000 tons of cane per day. The investment comes at a time when bioethanol production from sugarcane is being marketed as a “green solution.” (Oromiya Government)
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and global crop technology firm QUINVITA have signed an agreement to develop new industrial bio-energy crops that will be planted in developing countries. UNIDO says energy crops will be key to sustainable development. However, scientists dispute the “benefits” of bio-energy and argue that the diversion of food crops into biofuel production results in high food prices. This agreement is part of a growing trend of public-private partnerships at the UN. (UNIDO)
Sun Biofuels came to the Kisaware district of Tanzania with the promise of 700 jobs and financial compensation, but left villagers jobless, landless and without compensation when the company folded. To meet the EU and the UK’s rising biofuel targets companies from the global North are buying substantial amounts of African land to grow plants that can be processed into biodiesel. According to The Observer at least 30 biofuels projects—like Sun Biofuels—have been abandoned in 15 African countries in recent years. (The Observer)
Amidst the worst drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa, foreign investors are continuing to harvest tons of crops for export, decreasing food supply in the region. A delegation of 35 investors are currently visiting Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia in hopes of expanding their already large land holdings. Karuturi Global Ltd, the world’s largest rose grower with operations throughout India, Ethiopia and Kenya is seeking to acquire land in Tanzania: 200,000 hectares for palm oil, 20,000 hectares for sugar cane and 150,000 for cereals. In an effort to compete with China, Indian companies like Karuturi are trying to strengthen economic ties with Africa and see huge potential in the agricultural sector of East Africa. (Bloomberg)
A Guardian investigation has revealed that 11 British companies led by Crest Global Green Energy have acquired more land in Africa than firms from any other country. Officials in the UK allege that only 0.1% of biofuel is grown on African soil; however, this number is expected to rise as oil prices continue to increase. Biofuel developments offer small, if any, incentives to local residents, and cause food prices as well as greenhouse gas emissions to rise. (Guardian)
Although millions of farmers produce food, a select few companies, such as Glencore, control the global commodities market. With control over hundreds of thousands of hectares of land, Glencore has immense market power and direct access to information about food production and distribution. This knowledge of the markets allows the trading giant to illegally manipulate food prices and drive some of the world’s poorest further into poverty. (Al Jazeera)
High food prices are caused by market speculation in a corrupt global food system. Growing concern over access to food creates a new geopolitics around food security, with many countries buying farmland and banning food exports. One billion people cannot afford to buy enough to feed themselves and their families. Seventy percent of those hungry people are farmers, herders and other food producers who could feed themselves if they had access to land and markets. In recent months the world’s largest agricultural commodities trader, Cargill (based in the US), announced a tripling of profits. (IPS)
The US Ploy to Promote Genetically Engineered Seeds and Pesticides to Poor Mexican Farmers is Impoverishing Their Communities (August 6, 2010)
Subsistence farmers in Mexico are easy prey for the world’s agribusiness giants. Desperately seeking betterment for their families and with limited livelihood alternatives, many farmers have been easily persuaded that genetically engineered seeds and agrochemicals will offer a clear route out of poverty. Yet the reality is proving very different. And while traditional, sustainable production techniques, developed over generations, are replaced with industrialized agriculture, environmental degradation, health problems and dependency on expensive fertilizers and pesticides are taking hold. (AlterNet)
In a bid to defend traditional agriculture, Haitian farmers are resisting western aid which fails to respect local cultural values of environmental protection. Industrial hybrid corn seed donated by US agro-technology giant Monsanto conflicts with the Haitian peasant-agriculture ideology that runs at the heart of group cultural and spiritual identity. At best the seed from Monsanto reflects donor error and at worst an attempt to exercise economic control. Yet Haitian farmers stand firm, campaigning for international aid to be channeled into culturally sensitive programmes of effectual sustainable development. (IPS)
The world’s largest agribusiness companies squeeze the agriculture system from both the supply and demand side, threatening food security. Seed prices overall have risen 146 percent in the last decade as many farmers in the US and worldwide have no choice but to buy seeds from Monsanto, the world’s largest GM seed company. As well, agribusiness mergers in the last two decades have concentrated the industry’s buying power in the hands of a small number of corporations, threatening farmers to “get big, or get out.” (Triple Crisis)