«Green Revolution in Africa August 2009 Report Contributions: Sam Moyo, Walter Chambati, Tendai Murisa and Amade Sucá TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. ...»
Yet introducing GMO crops in Africa, characterized by high diversity in crop varieties, presents a potential threat of contaminating local varieties for non-adopters, and threatens the sustainability of these varieties (Gimenez et al, 2006). Furthermore, because these technologies are
Assessing the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa
P a g e | 15 patented, non-adopters of GM seeds face law suits from TNCs as a result of crossover of genetic materials to their varieties, and thus farmers could be forced to adopt or face heavy fines (Ibid). It behoves AGRA to at least fund research on the potential impacts of GMOs vis-àvis conventional breeding and household seed banks in Africa.
Some of the key grantees of AGRA are currently actively involved in GM research and development, although AGRA reports that this is not funded by it. For instance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently funding GM research on key African staples (cassava, sorghum and bananas) being led by American scientists in partnership with African researchers in Kenya and Uganda (Mayet, 2007).9 Moreover TNCs such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, have entered into public and private partnership agreements with under-funded national agricultural research centres in Africa to reorient agricultural research and policy towards GMOs, including AGRA participants (e.g. Kenya Agricultural Research Institute is being funded by the Syngenta Foundation to develop insect resistant maize varieties).10 Several weaknesses have been identified with GMOs which include: crop failures due to stem splitting, boll drop, contamination of non-GMO varieties through gene crossovers (Holt-Gimenez et. al, 2006) in addition to the concentration of the patented technology by monopoly TNCs.
Moreover, research has not been conclusive on the health effects and GMOs are currently being rejected by consumers. especially in Europe.
Although the official AGRA position is that matters related to GMOs and Intellectual Property Rights are the domain and competency of national governments, AGRA should invest into advising African countries on the negative consequences of decisions around those matters.
4.5 Environmental impacts and adaptation to climate change Most critiques of AGRA argue that the green revolution technology is likely to cause further environmental degradation (to African soils and water systems), due to increased fertiliser and pesticide use, and the degradation of African biodiversity. This is likely to be the case in the absence of effective national environmental regulations and mitigation strategies. Preventing this would require organized social movements which can lobby against this potential damage.
Available data limits the precise quantification of the potential for this to happen at present, although there is clear need to invest in research and movements to track these issues. For instance Kenyan farmers are already complaining over problems with strong crops from improved seed and negative effects of fertilizers on their soils. (See ACTIONAID country studies on Green Revolution, 2008).
4.6 Agricultural trade issues Although, the AGRA initiative acknowledges the existence of unfair global trade practices that have had, and continue to pose a serious threat to the viability of smallholder farming in Africa, it seems hesitant in tackling these obstacles. Its emphasis is on first increasing farm production before ‘advocat[ing] with other [unnamed] partners for a fairer global trade and domestic agricultural support policies that open up profitable market opportunities for African farmers’
Assessing the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa
P a g e | 16 (AGRA, FAQ n.d, p. 6). Already, African agriculture is globalised and lacks state protection, leading to it being locked into a path dependent on a technology-price squeeze treadmill. Yet, changing the exploitative way global agricultural markets work is expected to be possible only after the impacts have been felt. However, without addressing the obstacles associated with unfair global trade practices, the expanded farm production (with surplus to sell to domestic and international markets) that the AGRA initiative is promoting through improved technologies, may not benefit African farmers in the current unequal trade framework.
It might pay to resuscitate parastatals which guarantee agricultural markets and prices above the costs of production for smallholder surplus production, which extend cheap credit to farmers and maintain strategic food reserves (Takavarasha, 1994, ActionAid, 2007, Gimenez et al, 2006). Already AGRA is promoting high interest credit short lending periods (12 percent in Kenya), such that most small farmers cannot access such inputs. This interest rate is reported by smallholder farmers to be too high for them to recoup their production costs. Such agriculture marketing, previously part of the public sphere, is now a largely privately managed (private traders/middlemen, large local companies and TNCs) driven mainly by the profit motive, rather than food security.
4.7 Financing of AGRA In its current form the AGRA initiative is a wholly externally funded programme. Currently no pledges or commitments have been harnessed from African governments, although these are anticipated in the near future. As much as AGRA brings in much needed resources to invest in African agriculture there are concerns over the inequalities embedded in some of the partnerships that are being forged or will be as a result of this external dependence.
AGRA is supporting a USD$50 million credit scheme provided by the Equity Bank in Kenya (Kilimo Biashara loan) where IFAD had allocated USD$5 million as a ‘cash guarantee fund’ to reduce the banks risk of lending. The same programme is found in Tanzania with the National Microfinance Bank (NMB). Here the credit is worth USD$5 million and AGRA and the Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSDT) allocated USD$1.1 million as ‘cash guarantee fund’. These credits aim to facilitate the development of agro-dealers and farmers access to improved seeds, inorganic fertilizers and other market inputs. To get the credit farmers and agro-dealers required approval from the Ministry of Agriculture. The beneficiaries receive vouchers that they redeem at agro-dealer shops in exchange of High Yield Varieties (HYV) seeds and chemical fertilizers.
The vouchers are returned by the agro-dealers to the bank who then credits their account. In early 2009 however, AGRA through its innovative financing initiative mobilised USD$100 million from Standard Bank and USD$50 million from Equity Bank.
Historically experiences with externally funded initiatives show that in most instances, funding partners have assumed the role of defining priorities and the agenda at the expense of local knowledge and initiatives (Majele-Sibanda, n.d; Holt-Gimenez, 2006; Forum for Environment and Development, 2007). AGRA was conceptualized externally, created by the Rockefeller Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with limited participation by African governments, farmers and civil society actors, while consultations with smallholder farmers is being planned only after programme inception (AGRA, 2008). Although promised, there is no current representation of smallholder farmers in the AGRA governance structures, which is dominated by large capital and biotechnology personalities.
Assessing the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa
P a g e | 17 Given the declining aid flows to Africa from traditional donors and multilateral institutions, external debt service obligations, ballooning food import bills, stagnated or declining Gross Domestic Savings, AGRA in its current form and financial muscle will be irresistible to many African governments, irrespective of the identified flaws, and whether it is accepted by smallholder farmers and the citizenry in general.11 Historical trends also suggest that a large share of the profits from the input and output markets in Africa will be accrued by a few monopolistic multinational companies that are embedded in the AGRA initiative.
Deflationary policies have also reduced local capacities to fund their own production activities, let alone to adopt the proposed technology.12 Indeed AGRA’s financing strategy is intended to deepen high cost credit markets through banks (e.g. Equity Bank in Kenya) and agro-dealers, as opposed to promoting public financing of productivity growth.
4.8 Popular participation in policy making and implementation of AGRA Roles and influences of donors in policy making Ever since AGRA’s establishment, a number of collaboration agreements with influential donors and multilateral agencies have been entered into. However, seemingly absent are European based development agencies. The key decision makers are the two American foundations with some European partners albeit on a limited scale. The role of China, India and Brazil has, for instance, not yet been articulated although their financing in Africa has grown. However, it might be interesting to note that a South-South component is previewed under CAADP and major input TNCs are starting to operate in Africa through their branches in Brazil or India.
It seems that there remain some critical differences and a conflict of interest among the donors on two critical issues; the definition of the agrarian problem and its solution, as well as the role of genetic seed engineering in addressing the problem. Organisations such as FAO and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) argue that Africa’s agricultural crisis is a result of a long term production problem that needs more than technological transfer, through a more holistic supply response strategy, while other donors embedded in food aid and GMO technologies have emphasized the need for increased aid to expand these aspects, within the current Northern driven and dominated supply chain. Furthermore, it is feared that donor collusion may not provide room for developing an alternative African framework. Indeed the endorsement of NEPAD’s CAADP should not be seen as necessarily as an endorsement of an African way of thinking because it was heavily influenced by donors at the time of its inception and has not been widely accepted in Africa.
Civil society involvement in the decision and implementation of AGRA Although AGRA claims to have an ‘open and participatory’ policy (AGRA, FAQ, 2007: 2), there is little evidence of consultation with smallholder farmers and other stakeholders (see ACTIONAID country studies on AGRA). We assume that some NGOs in Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique involved in PASS programmes were consulted on their role in project implementation. More critically,13 the overall problem of African agriculture and interventions adopted were clearly formulated by a few agricultural consultants and the lead foundations rather than by consulting small-scale farmers. This shortcoming is reinforced by the fact that it is only now, after having started the implementation of PASS sub-programmes, that the basic issue of agricultural policy and advocacy through civil society and the establishment of a memorandum of understanding and partnership with Regional Economic Communities (RECs) Assessing the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa P a g e | 18 are being crafted by short-term consultants. Participatory policy design now follows implementation!
Most AGRA consultations have been held at the apex level and are yet to adequately engage the grassroots for their perspective. Thus, it is currently premature to define the position of civil society organizations on AGRA given that they are not fully aware of AGRA programmes which are only now being implemented, in fewer than ten countries. Few farmers’ organizations, that are critical to the success of such a programme, have been consulted. Existing civil society responses to AGRA have tended to be sporadic, uncoordinated and lack empirical analysis, perhaps because of limited access to information.
As it stands it appears a silo approach to programme implementation in selected countries is proposed since the inter-linkages amongst the programmes are not clear while consultation processes seem to have been sub-programme specific.
Critical engagement with AGRA is thus still lacking. In Mozambique the Foundation for Community Development hosted a consultative workshop on AGRA. Diverse perspectives on its potential impact were noted, and the FAO representative argued that it had ‘potential to directly not only offer food but also prosperity’ (Chipeta, 2007). Others (e.g. AIAS, 2007) argued for a more structural assessment of the African agricultural question, land access and resource distribution issues. In 2007 70 Africa civil society organizations participating at the World Social Forum’s Dialogue on Food Sovereignty demanded an end to ‘the domination of our food and food production systems by private corporations who put profits before people’(WSF, 2007).
The lack of participation by the poorer sections of society, besides the big NGOs, Farmers unions and women’s groups, is a general concern among civil society organizations, which fear that AGRA underplays a human-centred approach and limits stakeholders from effective engagement in the design and implementation processes.14 Yet it seems that most African governments have endorsed AGRA, as hardly any notable dissenting voices are documented. Moreover, AGRA has mainly worked through the cash strapped AU-led CAADP or NEPAD, and a few prominent Africans, to enhance its acceptability.
4.9 Regional integration and the AGRA initiative It was noted that the current linkages between AGRA and African regional organisations (the AU, AfDB and the regional economic communities) are promising. Weak ties are being forged with the CAADP of NEPAD, which at any rate has been considered ineffectual and is not widely being implemented in various countries.