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UK accused setting a ''poverty trap'' for African farmers


THE United Kingdom, UK, is currently being accused of setting up a
''poverty trap'' for African farmers.

The Africa Centre for Biosafety, ACB, supported by Food & Water
Europe and the Gaia Foundation, on Friday, wrote to UK Ministers for
International Development, Business and Environment asking for
evidence for the basis of UK overseas aid policy.

ACB recently published a searing critique of the Alliance for a Green
Revolution in Africa (known as AGRA, supported by agribusiness
multinationals and the Gates Foundation). The study finds the scheme
is ultimately not about developing lasting solutions to hunger, but
imposing a cash economy on African agriculture that will inevitably
result in farmers becoming dependent on the multinational corporations
profiting from the hardship that will follow.

AGRA effectively seeks to institutionalize biopiracy by accessing
publicly available genetic resources, patenting or imposing other
intellectual property rights on the resulting seeds, and then using
these industrial monoculture crops to channel African farmers into
focusing on earning enough export cash to buy the privatised seed.

The AGRA model uses free inputs to develop monopoly control over outputs
and expects farmers to pay for seeds they previously shared and
traded, and played a major part in developing over thousands of years.

AGRA’s model creates the foundation for the expansion of
biotechnology and synthetic agricultural inputs, a combination that
has proved disastrous in other parts of the world -- notably among
Indian cotton farmers, whose families are still suffering from the
tens of thousands of suicides that have resulted from the debts

Farmers should keep their focus on feeding people, and experience
shows they can best do this by retaining control over their own
resources, not permitting profit-driven multinationals to take over
and concentrate power away from those doing the work.

ACB Director Mariam Mayet said:

“We’ve seen this model too many times already, and the outcome
isn’t good. Western economies are suffering hugely from the problems
indebtedness causes. If the UK is serious about supporting the small
farmers in Africa who are feeding the majority of the people, it needs
to explain how handcuffing farmers to debt and an agrochemical
treadmill is going to be more effective than low cost, proven
approaches of looking after the soil and maintaining seed systems.

“The UK would do far more good if it was honest about the impacts
IMF-imposed structural adjustment policy has already had in Africa and
putting them right rather than ramping up the damage. Forcing whole
countries into a cycle of providing agricultural commodities for
others in order to buy inputs to produce yet more exports for the
profit of external corporations smacks of recolonisation. It’s a
very dangerous game to play.”

Liz Hosken of the Gaia Foundation adds:

"African farmers urgently need to regain control over their
traditional seed diversity, which enables them to adapt to climate
instability and spread their risks. AGRA’s strategy, a legacy of the
so-called “Green Revolution”, creates farmer dependence on a few
corporate-controlled seeds and agro-chemicals, which fail to meet
farmers' diverse nutritional and agricultural requirements. There is
nothing 'green' about this approach. Concentrating power over Africa's
food supply in the hands of a few corporations defies all logic."

Food & Water Europe Food Policy Advisor Eve Mitchell said:

“AGRA is all about making money, but Africans will never see the
bulk of it. Among other things, it is not acceptable that UK taxpayer
money is being used to turn public genetic resources and traditional
knowledge in Africa into privatised crops, especially in conditions of
structural increases in food and agricultural input costs. Exporting
agricultural technofixes might seem like a way to reap future profits
and put a sticking plaster on the UK economy for a while, but this is
at the expense of food producers and consumers in Africa. The UK
Government claims all its policy is based on evidence. We’d like to
see the basis for the decision to back AGRA''. ENDS

© Scoop Media

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