By Colin Todhunter *
Bill and Melinda Gates, along with agribusiness giants, take over African agriculture.
Empire and colonialism. The future of Africa is still being decided by the rich in London. Some 600 million pounds of the UK's development aid money, courtesy of taxpayers, is being used by big business to increase their profits in Africa through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. In exchange for financial aid and business investment, African countries have to change their laws to make it easier for companies to acquire land, control the supply of seeds and export products.
Last year, Global Justice Now Director Nick Dearden said:
“It is scandalous that the money that the United Kingdom allocates to development aid is being used to distribute Africa for the benefit of large companies. This is the exact opposite of what is needed, which is to support small farmers and a fairer distribution of land and resources to give African countries greater control over their food systems. Africa can produce enough food to feed its population. The problem is that our food system is geared toward the superfluous tastes of the wealthy, not the needs of ordinary people. The British government is using development aid to make the problem worse. "
Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Nigeria, Benin, Malawi and Senegal participate in the New Alliance.
Much of the perpetuation of poverty and hunger in Africa depends on mafia associations such as those established between companies and governments that want to take over the world's seeds and lands.
In a January 2015 article published in The Guardian, Dearden went on to say that development was once seen as a process of breaking away from colonial exploitation and transferring control of resources from the 'first' to the 'third world', which it was a revolutionary struggle for world resources. However, the current paradigm is based on the assumption that developing countries need to adopt neoliberal policies and that public money, under the guise of aid, should facilitate this process. The idea of "development" has been hijacked by big business and the concept of poverty, depoliticized and separated from structurally rooted power relations.
To see the results, look no further than the conference held last Monday, March 23, in London, and organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for Development (USAID, for its acronym in English). At this confidential meeting between aid donors and large companies, which could only be attended by invitation, a strategy was discussed to facilitate the sale of patented seeds in Africa and thereby increase corporate control over seeds.
For generations farmers have been saving and exchanging seeds with each other. This has given them a certain degree of independence, and has allowed them to innovate, maintain biodiversity, adapt seeds to climatic conditions, and defend against plant diseases. However, large seed companies, with the help of the Gates Foundation, the US government, and other aid donors, are looking at new ways to increase their market penetration, displacing farmers' own seed systems. .
The hybrid seeds marketed by these companies often produce higher yields the first time they are planted, but with the second generation of seeds a smaller yield is obtained and the crops develop unpredictable characters, which makes them unsuitable for conservation and later use. As Heidi Chow of Global Justice Now correctly states, instead of saving seeds for their own crops, farmers using hybrid seeds become completely dependent on seed, fertilizer and pesticide companies, which, in turn, can provoke (and cause) an agrarian crisis around debt, environmental damage and health problems.
The London conference aimed to share the findings of a Monitor Deloitte report on how to develop the commercial seed sector in sub-Saharan Africa. The report recommends that in countries where farmers are using their own seed networks, NGOs and donors should encourage governments to introduce intellectual property rights in seed breeding, and help convince farmers to buy. patented commercial seeds instead of using their traditional varieties. The report also suggests that governments should remove legal regulations for the seed sector to open up to the international market.
The guest list included businesses, development agencies and aid donors, including Syngenta, the World Bank, and the Gates Foundation. It says a lot that no agrarian organization was invited. For thousands of years farmers have been imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit. They have been “scientists, innovators, natural resource managers, seed keepers and hybridization experts”, progressively reducing their role to that of recipients of technical solutions and consumers of poisoned products from a growing agricultural input industry. So who better for them to discuss issues that have to do with agriculture?
However, the rationale behind such a conference is that the West sees African agriculture as a "business opportunity", even if it comes wrapped up in lullabies like "feeding Africa" or "lifting millions of people out of poverty." The legacy of the West in Africa (and elsewhere) has been to plunge millions of people into poverty. The imposition of structural reforms to benefit large agro-industries and their unsustainable and toxic transgenic / petrochemical inputs represents the continuation of the neo-colonialist plunder of Africa. The United States decades ago identified agriculture as a key element of its foreign policy to ensure world hegemony.
Phil Bereano, a food sovereignty activist within AGRA Watch and professor emeritus at the University of Washington explains:
“This is an extension of what the Gates Foundation has been doing for years: working with the US government and agribusiness giants like Monsanto to privatize Africa's genetic wealth for the benefit of others. Don't Bill and Melinda realize that colonialism is out of date? It is time to support the self-determination of African farmers. "
Bereano also demonstrates that Western companies chose only the most profitable aspects of the food production chain, while letting the public sector in Africa bear the cost of the unprofitable aspects, improving profitability throughout. of the chain.
The agrotechnology giants, with their proprietary seeds and associated chemical inputs, are causing a shift away from diversified agriculture that ensures balanced, local food production, protection of livelihoods and agricultural sustainability. African agriculture is being left in the hands of these giants for private gain under the guise of helping the poor. The Gates Foundation owns half a million shares of Monsanto. Given the active support Monsanto receives from the State Department and the links between the Gates Foundation and USAID, African farmers face a formidable force.
Numerous reports indicate that what is needed is to support conventional agriculture, agroecology and the local economies of the Global South. Instead, Western governments have used taxpayers' money to support large companies whose purpose, through the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF, has been to encourage conditional loans, monocultures for export using seeds patents, the restructuring of economies, the exposure of economies to the ups and downs of speculation in land and raw materials, and a globalized trading system designed to favor the West.
In this view of Africa, farmers who are seen as having a role in all of this are seen only as passive consumers of the seeds and proprietary programs of large companies. Once again, the future of Africa is being decided in London by the rich.
* Colin Todhunter is a social-political researcher and writer. Of British origin, she has lived in India for many years and her articles have been published in newspapers, magazines, books and websites.