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«Green Revolution in Africa August 2009 Report Contributions: Sam Moyo, Walter Chambati, Tendai Murisa and Amade Sucá TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. ...»

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Moreover, the current vogue of narrowly conceived poverty reduction strategies (including the Millenium Development Goals project) and atomistic African ‘livelihoods’ programmes (including CAADP of NEPAD), shun the development logic of ‘accumulation from below’. Their prescriptions undermine any hope of stimulating demand among the poor, due to their narrow focus and selective social protection schemes (food aid, cash transfers, etc), which limit the potential multipliers from increased non-farm incomes and rural development. It is compression of capital demand among small rural producers and workers (farm and non-farm), which systemically undermines their agricultural production activities, rather than the problem of any single factor (tenure, scale, technology, public finance, state intervention, etc) on its own.

Assessing the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa P a g e | 19 Current negative trends of human deprivation and poverty reflect a trajectory of the neglect of poor rural producers and workers by the state, and their excessive exploitation by capital.

Clearly even AGRA’s narrowly focused technological agenda could benefit Africa’s regional integration agenda, and vice versa, regarding African production of, and trade in, the various inputs entailed in the AGRA programmes. The need to optimise scale effects in industries such as fertiliser and seed generation through substantive regional integration strategies is critical.

Regional integration is limited by the fact that trade amongst African countries is very poor. A regional programme to enhance agricultural technology development and to broaden input markets (including bulk procurement) is currently lacking.15 The few existing plants in fertiliser behave monopolistically (e.g. in South Africa, and Zimbabwe),16 while most African countries import fertilizers. It is worth noting that since March 2009 AGRA has been planning a regional bulk fertilizer procurement initiative.

In general, the AGRA initiative could undermine regional cooperation in agriculture, given its focus only on a few selected countries, and the lack of a regional integration strategy underpinning the green revolution. For now, RECs are seen as playing a policy monitoring role, rather than being involved in the design of capital projects, which need support for the agricultural development to be sustainable. Moreover various regional civil society formations are not yet involved in the AGRA process, limiting the potential to shape such a strategy.


The AGRA concept, programmes and its potential impacts are not adequately understood within civil society and social movements, including in numerous national organizations of the state and farmer. This is primarily due to the selective and poor information and communication on AGRA by its proponents, and its top down approach focused on a few apex organizations in governments, civil society, the research community and the private sector. There is limited monitoring of the AGRA process by civil society and governments, let alone research and policy dialogue on its efficacy and potential impacts. This is exacerbated by the inadequate analytical and advocacy capacity within civil society.

Among those aware of the AGRA process, there are two perspectives on its role: either a blind faith in the potential of AGRA to enhance smallholder productivity or a latent scepticism and/or fear that AGRA has the potential to harm smallholder farming systems. The main fears include loss of food sovereignty, increased dependency on self-interested TNCs, high cost of the technology packages, and the erosion of local biodiversity, agricultural knowledge systems and institutional capacities. There is also fear that AGRA could enhance environmental damage, especially to African soils though the intensive use of fertilisers.

A significant number of actors are not convinced that the AGRA process is based upon an adequate social process of promoting technological innovation within Africa. The initiative is perceived to be over dependent on the received technological packages of TNCs (such as Syngenta, Yara and Monsanto), and to neglect small farmers’ diverse knowledge. Some fear the ‘theft’ of small farmer’s seed technologies. The salient concern is that GMOs might be infiltrated into smallholder farming through AGRA. Underlying this conclusion is the perception that AGRA processes are negatively integrated into the unfair world agricultural trade systems and the crisis prone food, energy and financial system.

Assessing the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa

P a g e | 20 Most civil society actors are not convinced that AGRA, in its present form, is people centred.

Their call is for the search of more suitable people-driven agricultural technological system based on principles of sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty. Such an alternative has to be pursued through farmers’ and social movements, possibly through critical engagement with more inclusive national agricultural research systems. This should embed activities such as the promotion of crop rotation for improving soil fertility, development of open pollinated varieties, support for water harnessing, promotion of community seed banks and local breeding systems that guarantee that farmers conserve and utilise their own seeds as well as adopting available green technologies.

It is acknowledged that increasing food supplies in Africa will require both expanding the area of land under farming and intensification, through irrigation and various technological changes which improve yields and soils. Well regulated agricultural technology generation and application, driven by African knowledge and local control, rather than by monopoly capital, is one of the instruments required to address the food needs of poor and working people.

This could be achieved without any further land expropriation and preferential resource transfers to larger farmers at the expense of peasant farming, as well as without the continued unequal extraction of surpluses by external agricultural capital (including African capital). For this to take place the African state must become developmental. Already, the transfer of land for biofuel production in Africa raises the chance of renewed land alienation and the ecologically unregulated opening up of the land frontier, at the expense of rural working people. The food ‘crisis’, as conceived by large capital and some experts, could spur further land expropriations by the large capitalist farmer agricultural related corporate industry, instead of addressing the problems facing small producers.

While recognising some positive technical interventions of AGRA (e.g. in conventional breeding, the initial efforts to promote organic fertilizers and green manure, support for farmers conservation of indigenous germ-plasma materials), ACTIONAID believes that if in the long term the structural causes of agricultural decline are not addressed in a holistic manner, the programme may not be sustainable. There is a need to address the key issues at the local, national, regional and international level if the constraints on the eradication of hunger are to be redressed. There is a need to think globally and strategically in the effort to transform African agriculture.

The AGRA projects’ focus on agricultural technological transformation through small producers could make a serious contribution to efforts to address some of the numerous obstacles to Africa’s agricultural development. This potential can only be realized if appropriate state interventions are established and if social movements organize to influence AGRA’s direction and content (as enumerated above) towards sustainable development. However, by neglecting the wider systemic issues which affect agrarian transformation while dealing with only some of the aspects of Africa’s agricultural technological deficits, even if done in an ecologically sensitive manner, will neither be adequate or sustainable. Specifically, it is unclear how AGRA might contribute to addressing the wider and more formidable obstacles facing small producers or whether AGRA would reinforce these obstacles.

AGRA still needs to address adequately the question of small farmer’s participation in its programmes, and be better linked to national development strategies, particularly around issues of Intellectual Property Rights, international trade regimes and the emerging agrarian questions

Assessing the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa

P a g e | 21 (such as foreign land grabs and access to land, particularly by women). Wider approaches to agrarian reform are required to reverse the fact that African agricultural production remains predominantly export-oriented, with declining prices and limited value addition, impacting negatively on local incomes. Africa’s poor integration into the predatory mass agricultural production on a global scale and trade system production and the existence of debilitative structures of domestic agricultural remain critical challenges.

The overall goal should be to reverse the current dependence on global agricultural technological and commodity markets, which submerge local knowledge and technologies and deepen the extraction of farming surpluses (through the unfair pricing of food and inputs). Action is required to prevent the negative ecological consequences of the currently unregulated technological paradigm. Balanced analysis should inform the technological options chosen and the ‘food sovereignty’ framework desired. It would be futile however to reject technology induced productivity growth among the poor small scale farmers.

Any response to food shortages or for increasing food supplies must be done under a right to food framework, including observing the FAO voluntary guidelines in support of the progressive realisation of the right to food, within the context of national food security.

6. RECOMMENDATIONS ActionAid suggests that rather than rejecting AGRA, social movements should learn to engage critically with it and allied African initiatives, on the basis of their principles and experiences, in order to influence the AGRA process and content towards sustainable agriculture (as yet not clearly defined and realistically conceptualised). The principle of ‘food rights’ and clearly formulated concepts of food sovereignty would inform such critical engagement.

Social movements should rigorously define the choice of the commodities to be produced and for what social purpose, and the [re]distribution of production resources and benefits. The choice of the nature and sources of the agricultural inputs required (technologies etc), relates to the choices made in relation to who is in control of domestic markets and the conditions for participation in external markets. Social movements and NGOs should demand from national governments, international institutions and donors an increase in the financing for sustainable agriculture under the right to food framework.

Such an advocacy project would organize to fight against the continued dispossession of peasant land and water rights, through their commoditization; the continued weakening of their production systems, via the deflation of their incomes, through the monopolistic practices of agricultural capital, the existing situation of unequal commodity and inputs markets; the limitations placed on state interventions by international finance and aid, including reversing low public support to small producers’ production and incomes; the absence of (import) regulations to protect their agricultural production activities from global dumping; and the ineffectiveness of existing technological and environmental regulations related to agriculture.

Civil Society should also fight against the marginalisation of small producers in policy processes, given their weak social and political (collective) organisation. This would mean reversing the capture of policy advocacy space by neoliberal civil society and key donors, in collaboration with national elites seeking rapid accumulation. A regional (REC) approach to such advocacy in Africa, based upon a focus on ‘real’ regional integration, rather than Assessing the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa P a g e | 22 regionalisation for global integration, would be an effective addition to the struggle for agrarian transformation.

Specific Actions Proposal

The preliminary set of actions recommended with regard to AGRA at this stage includes:

• That progressive civil society organisations promote the enhancement of analytic and advocacy capacities of small scale farming in Africa and related movements on agrarian

reform and ‘green revolution’ initiatives in order to:

–  –  –

Specifically, ActionAid demands that AGRA:

• Develop other criteria such as labour and capital investments in addition to size of landholding to ensure that the poorer small farmers are the actual beneficiaries.

• Promote a diverse approach to plant breeding and promote inter- and mixed cropping.

• Advocate for balanced (re)distribution of land and water resources and the security of women’s land rights to ensure that benefits are not captured by the larger scale male farmers, with more secure land rights.

• Maintain its current focus on staple food crops and refrain from promoting biofuels and other export crops.

Assessing the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa

P a g e | 23

• Develop a clear strategy for ensuring technological improvements do not cause indebtedness and social dislocation among tenant sharecroppers.

• Train and employ social scientists as well as crop scientists.

• Undertake research on the potential impact of its interventions on rural and agricultural employment.

• Support the local small and medium private companies that are producing improved seeds that originate from the farmer’s locality and assist agro-dealers to provide those seeds to the communities, in order to avoid dependence on large TNCs and expensive credit.

• Specify how many of the 1000 seeds to be improved will derive from small holder farmer’s local seed banks and breeding systems.

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