Sunday, July 19, 2020

AGRA Africa - Gates Foundation Project To Destroy Sustainable African Agriculture

iatp |  Fourteen years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations launched the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with the goal of bringing Africa its own Green Revolution in agricultural productivity. Armed with high-yield commercial seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, AGRA eventually set the goal to double productivity and incomes by 2020 for 30 million small-scale farming households while reducing food insecurity by half in 20 countries.

According to a new report from a broad-based civil society alliance, based partly on my new background paper, AGRA is “failing on its own terms.” There has been no productivity surge. Many climate-resilient, nutritious crops have been displaced by the expansion in supported crops such as maize. Even where maize production has increased, incomes and food security have scarcely improved for AGRA’s supposed beneficiaries, small-scale farming households. The number of undernourished in AGRA’s 13 focus countries has increased 30% during the organization’s well-funded Green Revolution campaign.

"The results of the study are devastating for AGRA and the prophets of the Green Revolution," says Jan Urhahn, agricultural expert at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, which funded the research and on July 10 published “False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).”

A Record of Failure
As I document in my background paper, “Failing Africa’s Farmers: An Impact Assessment of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa,” AGRA has received nearly $1 billion in contributions, the vast majority from the Gates Foundation but with significant contributions from donor governments, including from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and other countries. AGRA has made over $500 million in grants to promote its vision of a “modernized” African agriculture freed from its limited technology and low yields. The campaign has been fortified with large financial outlays by African governments, much of it in the form of subsidies to farmers to buy the seeds and fertilizers AGRA promotes. These subsidy programs have been estimated to provide as much as $1 billion per year in direct support for such technology adoption.

AGRA has been controversial from the start. Many farmers’ groups on the continent actively opposed the initiative, pointing to negative environmental and social impacts of the first Green Revolution in Asia and Latin America. Since AGRA’s founding, scientists and world leaders have gained growing awareness of the limitations of input-intensive agricultural systems, particularly to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2019 documented the many ways industrialized agriculture contributes to climate change, calling for profound changes to both mitigate and help farmers adapt to climate disruptions.

Surprisingly, as AGRA reaches its self-declared deadline of 2020, the organization has published no overall evaluation of the impacts of its programs on the number of smallholder households reached, the improvements in their yields and household incomes or their food security, nor does it make reference to its goals or progress in achieving them. Neither has the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has provided two-thirds of AGRA’s funding. This lack of accountability represents a serious oversight problem for a program that has both consumed so much in the way of resources and driven the region’s agricultural development policies with its narrative of technology-driven, input-intensive agricultural development.