It was hard not to notice how the thinking behind the G8 nations’
New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, recently announced by U.S. president Barack Obama, sounds so similar to that of the initiatives so far spearheaded by the Bill and Melinda Gates-funded Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA.)
Indeed, the G8 plan seems to have been heavily influenced by AGRA-type thinking. So it was not surprising when it was announced that AGRA ‘was given a key role in the G8's next phase of a shared commitment to achieve global food security. The Scaling Seeds and Other Technologies Partnership, part of the new initiative focused on increasing agricultural food production in Africa, will be housed at AGRA and will focus on strengthening Africa's seed sector.’
To those who believe these initiatives are a welcome addition to local initiatives to give more support to African agriculture, this is welcome pooling of resources. To those who fear that they represent a new type of corporate-led agricultural neo-colonialism, the ganging up of AGRA-like initiatives with the money and influence of the governments of G8 nations on weak, easily donor-influenced African governments is a nightmare scenario.
Seed and who controls it is a major area of ideological contestation between pro and anti-AGRA/green revolution people. It also is a huge business opportunity that remains largely untapped in most of Africa, as Monsanto, Syngenta and many others have noted. These and many other similar companies were very quick to issue sugary Press statements crowing about their eagerness to participate in the G8’s announced focus on private sector ‘investment’ in Africa’s agriculture.
‘Strengthening Africa’s seed sector’ is a deceptively innocuous phrase that can mean almost anything depending on whether you’re AGRA, Monsanto or a small scale African farmer.
The banding together of AGRA and the G8 on their vision of what Africa’s agriculture ‘needs’ is a either a cause for great celebration, or an occasion to be very afraid.
Which is it?