Monday, March 30, 2015

Geldof - The Saviour of Africa

Ethiopia—A generation ago, this African nation was a magnet for Western charity. Today, some of America’s richest deal makers are delivering something new: investment. KKR & Co., the New York-based private-equity firm, last summer bought control of a rose farm, Afriflora, for about $200 million, its first investment in Africa. Blackstone Group plans to build a $1.35 billion pipeline to bring gasoline to the capital, Addis Ababa. Hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones is backing a $2 billion geothermal power project.

Bob Geldof chairs 8 Miles LLP, a London-based private-equity firm that invests in Ethiopia. 8 Miles website states it “focuses on consumer-driven businesses and service providers with strong growth prospects. Typical sectors supported by the Fund include agribusiness, business and financial services, consumer goods and retail, energy and utilities, healthcare and pharmaceutical services, hospitality and real estate, telecom, media and technology, transport and logistics.”

“They don’t have to die in vast numbers before we pay attention,” Geldof recently said in an interview with the Wall St Journal. “The potential rewards in Africa are far greater than anywhere else.”
In 2013 he stated “Africa is now a continent of extraordinary business and investment opportunity. Private equity is one way to support the enterprise and dynamism of the people of the continent and help provide the jobs and skills that are needed.”  

In February 8 Miles acquired a 42 percent stake in Orient Bank, a medium-sized Ugandan commercial bank. Last year it bought a stake in Ugandan agribusiness Biyinzika Poultry International Ltd. (BPIL) for an undisclosed amount. Other recent investments from Bob Geldof-backed 8 Miles include buying a 25 per cent stake in Egypt’s Eagle Chemicals Group.
Geldof with the Wicked Witch

Gone are the days where philanthropic capitalism aka Bill Gates will save Africa. Today it is capitalism’s, tooth and claw, greed for profit which is the solution. And humanitarianism’s success will be measured in a nation’s GDP growth and its companies stock-market prices. Capitalism is now the only route out of poverty for Africa, not any system changes. Capitalism can only do good, it seems, according to Geldof. The global ruling class are only too correct in acclaiming Geldof to be worth of a sainthood, much less the knighthood he holds. Geldof is said to be a director of 12 companies. Geldof and his partners have taken £21 million in dividends in the past ten years from  Castaway Holdings which made the TV reality shows Survivor and  Celebrity Survivor. In 2001, he sold another firm, online travel site, in a  deal that was said to be worth up to £9.2 million. He also charges as  much as £75,000 a time to give speeches on the international lecture circuit. His Kent mansion, Davington Priory, which  was bought in 1983, is said to be worth more than £4 million. Despite living in the UK since the Seventies, his non-dom status enables him  legitimately to avoid paying large sums of tax on overseas earnings  although he still has to pay tax in the usual way on his UK earnings.  Meanwhile, it was revealed that he has exploited off-shore companies  based in the British Virgin Islands to ensure his two homes here — the  mansion flat in Battersea, South London, and  his rambling country home in Faversham, Kent — are both exempt from stamp duty and inheritance tax. Richard  Murphy, founder of the Tax Justice Network, said: ‘As a non-dom, Bob  Geldof has lived in Britain for many years and is enjoying all the  benefits of living here.  ‘He says he wants to solve the problems of poverty, but you simply can’t  solve poverty in this world without the rich paying their taxes.’

 ‘Money is not an evil thing . . . it depends what you do with it. I’m  rich, I did well. I’m the chair of several companies. I like business.’ - Geldof

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Resource Curse

The resource curse is, essentially, the idea that countries with lots of mineral wealth tend to have lousy economic development. A wee few in a resource-rich country will become very affluent themselves, while the masses live in crushing destitution.
It's not unique to Africa, but the resource curse seems to apply especially well to the sprawling land mass that's the cradle of our species and home to about 15 per cent of humans but only two per cent of global GDP.
The continent has 40 per cent of the world's gold reserves, 15 per cent of petroleum reserves, 80 per cent of platinum reserves, and much of the planet's diamonds and copper, yet the economic reality for the masses living in African countries flush with those sought-after commodities is rather bleak.
Consider Angola as an example. The former Portuguese colony has an abundance of oil, sizable diamond mines and impressive economic growth that has outpaced China's in some of the 13 years since a protracted civil war ended there. Yet three in four residents of Angola's capital city, Luanda, live in crime-ridden slums without reliable supplies of electricity, and 40 per cent of Angolans live in what the World Bank defines as "extreme poverty."
It's a similar story in oil-endowed Nigeria, where two-thirds live in extreme poverty, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) with its vast wealth of gold, cobalt, copper, diamonds and tantalum. Extreme poverty is reality for about nine out of 10 people in Congo.
In these and other sub-Saharan countries, having great volumes of minerals and gems in the ground has not at all meant economic security for the average citizen.
Africa is being looted by indigenous elites in concert with powerful multinational corporations.
And the big foreign companies aren't just European and North American anymore. China has wedged its way into the racket in a modern colonial-type system that revolves around unholy alliances between "unaccountable African rulers" and rapacious foreign capitalists and India now wants its share of the spoils 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The New Colonialism

This week the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID hosted a meeting in London with big agribusinesses to discuss strategies to increase corporate control over seeds in Africa. The location of the meeting was secret. So was the agenda. Attendance was strictly invite-only and nobody who even came close to representing African small farmers was invited. Meanwhile, farmers and food sovereignty activists met at the World Social Forum in Tunis to discuss their solutions to the problems of our food system. These two meetings represent not just two different types of meeting – a closed, secretive meeting of the powerful versus an open, democratic meeting of grassroots activists – but also two radically different paths for the future of our food. One is based on corporate control and would generate vast profits for a small elite; the second is centred on sustainable, democratic, local food production.

As often was the case in colonial times, the corporate agenda in Africa is today often disguised as paternalistic benevolence. Friendly sounding projects such as the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the DfID (Britain’s Department for International Development)-supported New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition promise to eliminate hunger by creating the conditions that will bring new corporate technologies and more big business investment to African agriculture.  On the face of it, that all sounds very good. So why this level of secrecy for the meetings about the projects? Samwel Messiak, a Tanzanian food campaigner, tells a very different story of the corporate agenda for Africa’s food. He told me that in Tanzania the New Alliance has helped corporations ‘buy’ land off local communities without their consent and without paying them compensation. This is because the corporate agenda of AGRA and the New Alliance threatens to move control of land and seeds into corporate hands. The push for corporate engagement in Africa’s agriculture also has a strong focus on producing cash crops for consumption in richer parts of the world (a practice started in colonial times) which, if anything, provides less food for people living locally. It seems strange that a supposedly charitable organization such as the Gates Foundation is involved in this agenda; it seems they have swallowed the idea that only the market can provide for our needs.

Some 600 million pounds in UK aid money is helping big business increase its profits in Africa via the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. In return for receiving aid money and corporate investment, African countries have to change their laws, making it easier for corporations to acquire farmland, control seed supplies and export produce. Last year, Director of the Global Justice Now Nick Dearden said:
“It’s scandalous that UK aid money is being used to carve up Africa in the interests of big business. This is the exact opposite of what is needed, which is support to small-scale farmers and fairer distribution of land and resources to give African countries more control over their food systems. Africa can produce enough food to feed its people. The problem is that our food system is geared to the luxury tastes of the richest, not the needs of ordinary people. Here the British government is using aid money to make the problem even worse.”

Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Nigeria, Benin, Malawi and Senegal are all involved in the New Alliance.

Agribusinesses are putting small-scale farmers under pressure everywhere. In 2015 it shouldn’t be a radical notion to want to move beyond colonialism and make sure farmers can keep control of the resources needed to grow food to feed their communities. So it is more important than ever that we stand with small farmers across the world to defend their right to control their own land and their own seeds and our right to healthy local food.

The Real Drug Pushers

Kenya is facing A great threat from alcohol abuse. A 2012 national survey by NACADA showed that alcohol is now the most abused substance in the country and of the different types of alcoholic drink, traditional liquor is the most easily accessible, followed by wines and spirits and last but not least Chang’aa (which literally means ‘kill me quick’). Calamities associated with excessive intoxication – dementia, seizures, liver disease and early death – have done little to deter users.

Illicit brewers have been turning to lethal embalming fluid used in mortuaries have cut the rate of abuse.
“Patrons want to spend as little as possible but drink as much as they can, so they opt for cheap illicit brews, especially spirits,” says Nduta Kamau, who brews home-made alcohol in the sprawling Mathare slums in Nairobi. According to Kamau, those who brew illicit alcohol also spend as little as possible “in time and money but produce as much alcohol as they can”, while chemicals used in the mortuary speed up the production process, “so we are able to produce a lot of alcohol in a very short time.” Kamau adds that illicit brews from dens in the slums are bottled, labelled and sold in pubs across the country.

Government statistics also show that alcohol and drug abuse is highest among young adults aged 15 to 29 years and lowest among adults of 65 years and older. Under-age and rural children have not been spared. According to NACADA, rural children are more likely to have consumed traditional liquor and Chang’aa than urban children.

Many of those fighting alcohol abuse in Kenya point an accusing finger at the global alcohol industry which has a big foothold in Kenya and has undermined proper implementation of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act with aggressive advertising and promotion through musical and artsy events. Increased drinking has meant higher profits for commercial brewers. A report last month by the East African Breweries Limited (EABL) noted an average 11 percent increase in profit from beer sales. According to EABL, the highest growth in sales – at 67 percent – was in spirits, mainly targeting the lower income earners, who are also the target for the many brands from informal sources. A press release from financial advisors KPMG, titled “Incredible Growth of Kenya’s Beer Market“ noted: “Driven by strong population growth, a growing middle class and a dynamic private sector, the beer industry in Kenya has taken off in impressive ways, and is promising of even further developments in the coming decade.” Only inflation and tax increases could diminish this rise, it said. “To expand its customer base, “the company has accordingly invested in marketing and sales capabilities in this area.”

Keeping it in the family

Angola has the third largest economy in Africa, with a GDP of $121bn in 2013. According to the auditors Ernst and Young, it was the world's fastest growing economy from 2000-10.  Yet it was  still classed as a "Low Human Development" country, coming 149/187 in the UN's Human Development Index for 2014. Angola’s wealth and power have stayed in the hands of a very few families. The Angolan elite lives in a world almost entirely disconnected from the rest of the country's population of 20 million. Its playground is the Ilha, a stretch of sand that curves out from Luanda, dotted with luxury villas, beachside restaurants and glitzy nightclubs. The rich and the beautiful sip $60 cocktails, as gleaming Porsches purr past, the wrists of their drivers heavy with Rolex watches. Prices are astronomical. It is as if they have been set deliberately high to enable people to show off just how wealthy they are. Why else would a supermarket charge $100 for a watermelon, $200 for a chicken? Shiny white super-yachts luxuriate in the blue of the sea. A swarm of new skyscrapers lines the horizon. One of the multi-million-dollar penthouse apartments has a helicopter landing pad. 

Isabel is the eldest daughter of President Dos Santos. Worth an estimated $3.4bn, she has been described by Forbes magazine as Africa's richest woman. Why do the media disguise the truth? She is Africa's biggest female thief and the world should treat her as such. 

Meanwhile, an estimated 70% of Angola's population survives on less than $2 a day - 90% of Luanda's population lives in slums. Child and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world - about one child in five doesn't surviving to the age of five, maternal mortality is 610 per 100,000 live births (UNICEF). The government makes sure local beer stays cheap - it costs less than $1 a bottle. It sponsors football clubs and pop concerts, and encourages churches; anything to distract the poor. Free drinks and T-shirts were enough to make sure that, on the eve of an opposition protest, a huge "pro-government" march was held. Rafael Marques in his book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, alleges the army and private security companies have been involved in burying miners alive, executing them en masse, and forcing them to leap to their deaths from speeding vehicles.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Contract Farming, Market-Oriented African Agriculture

NGO accuses EU company of illegal African land grabs

European food companies are illegally grabbing land from smallhold farmers in Africa as part of the G8 New Alliance project, says an Action Aid report published this month.
Funded by the EU, European and US governments, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition promotes public-private agricultural partnerships with the aim of improving food security. An estimated €7.57bn will be invested in 10 African partner countries as part of the project.
Yet Action Aid conducted an investigation into one of New Alliance flagship projects - Swedish company EcoEnergy’s plans to develop a sugarcane plantation in Tanzania – and has condemned it as an illegal land grab.
The NGO said  that similar land grabs have also happened in Nigeria and Mozambique to make way for rice and sugarcane plantations.

EcoEnergy has secured a 99-year lease of more than 20,000 hectares of land for a sugar cane plantation in the Bagamoyo area of Tanzania. In the first phase of the project around 1,300 people will lose all or some of their land, while some will also lose their homes.
Although the company conducted consultations with affected villagers, Action Aid claims that the majority of people were not offered a choice of whether to be resettled or not.
The NGO also claims that during the consultations EcoEnergy withheld crucial information about how the project will change farmers’ livelihoods.

By failing to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the communities in the area affected by the project, EcoEnergy is grabbing the land of these communities,” said the report.

The report also condemned the risky outgrowers scheme that farmers are expected to buy into, requiring them to borrow around €15,000, roughly 30 times their annual salary.
In a response to Action Aid, EcoEnergy said that locals were given the chance to negotiate terms but confirmed that they had no choice but to accept resettlement.
“This is involuntary resettlement and choices provided are not ‘whether they should stay or go’, but through a consultative process and a negotiated agreement of how they resettle.”

The company also claimed that the project will inject US$45 to $50 million a year into the local economy, although Action Aid said this estimate is inflated and that the company has on previous occasions given “misleading information” about the project’s finances.
While a 2009 OECD report stated that “contract farming appears to be the main road towards making African agriculture more market-oriented”, for Action Aid director Yaekob Matena it means discrimination and less food security.
Metena called for governments to stop supporting the initiative.

“Despite the positive noises from Brussels, the early indications suggest that [New Alliance is] on course for an EU development policy mismatch that pits the interests of large multinational agribusinesses against those of the small regional farmer they aim to help,” he said.
“EU governments and other donor agencies must practice what they preach when it comes to joined-up, coherent development. This means taking a far more hands-on approach to ensuring projects involving the private sector are genuinely fair and inclusive. It also means attaching stringent conditions to funding, including criteria for safeguards, accountability and transparency.”
Action Aid’s report echoes concerns voiced in an Oxfam review last September which also condemned   agricultural public–private partnerships (PPPs).
“PPPs are by and large unproven and risky, and are likely to skew the benefits of investments towards the privileged and more powerful, while the risks fall on the most vulnerable,” it said.

from here

That Elusive African Middle-Class

“Middle class” is such a vague term, and socialists tend to say “middle-income working class” but it is such a chore of having to correct and amend so many sources that use the phrase “middle class” we often let it pass.

Everyone wants to know if the continent is better off, but proclaiming that it is without solid proof. The “middle class” in Africa is growing. That much we know. But depending on who you speak to you and how you measure it, you can get a very different picture of its size. It makes a huge difference, for example, if you decide that people with incomes above $2 or $4 a day are part of the middle class.

Some 791 million Africans live in homes with at least one mobile phone, and 495 million in homes with a television. About 311 million have a refrigerator and 114 million live in homes with a car. It is estimated 38 million Nigerians have incomes above $2 a day. Almost 90 million Nigerians live in homes with a television. In Tanzania and Mozambique, the number of households with electricity has more than doubled in the past five years. So things are changing.

The African Development Bank defined the middle class as those with a daily consumption of US$2-$20.within its middle class. On that basis, 34% of Africa’s 1.1 billion people are middle class. But are they really middle class? Many commentators have, however, conveniently ignored the fact that the AfDB divided this group into a further three sub-categories. At the bottom end is what the AfDB calls the “floating class”. These people spend just $2-$4 a day, and account for 60% of the “middle class”. Many Africans seen as “middle class” are in fact highly vulnerable to various economic shocks and can easily lose their middle-income status.

A report authored by Standard Bank economist Simon Freemantle suggests the region’s middle class is smaller than formerly believed. His report looks at 11 sub-Saharan African countries which, combined, account for half of Africa’s GDP: Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The report found that in these 11 markets, there are 15m middle-class households, up from 4.6m in 2000. Some 86% of households in the 11 countries remain in the low-income band, although this figure is expected to improve, falling to 75% by 2030. The vast majority of Africans continue to live on or below the poverty line (measured as those with daily income of $2 or less. There is however differences between countries. In Ethiopia, for example, some 88% of the country’s 90m population live on $2 or less per day; while in Angola ‘only’ 54% fall within this category. In 1990, 90% of Nigerians lived on or below the poverty line. This figure has since dropped to 65%. Nigeria’s middle class currently stands at just over 8m households, and by 2030 Africa’s largest economy is anticipated to have 21m middle-class households.

“Though there has been a meaningful individual lift in income, it is clear that a substantial majority of individuals in most countries we looked at still live on, or below, the poverty line (measured as those with a daily income of $2 or less),” explains Freemantle.

The size of Africa’s middle class stretches from as few as 15.7m households, as estimated by McKinsey, to the 327m people the AfDB assessed in 2010. Completely different monetary definitions of the middle class drive these differences. The AfDB’s bottom threshold of $2 per day is much lower than McKinsey’s $55, Standard Bank’s $23 or the $10 per day used by the OECD, a Paris-based intergovernmental think-tank. In addition, the OECD and AfDB report their statistics in total number of people, while McKinsey and Standard Bank report on households without specifying their size.
It may appear puzzling that Standard Bank defines the middle class as households that spend between $8,500 and $42,000, while McKinsey’s 2010 Lions on the move report defines this group as households that spend above $20,000 a year. This can be reconciled: McKinsey includes all households above $20,000 in disposable income. This means that they also count very rich households, which explains why their estimate is higher.
In its other report, The rise of the African consumer, McKinsey contends that 40% of spending-power growth will come from households that earn above $20,000 annually. They note that “this group currently accounts for just 1-2% of total households” but that this income cluster is “growing faster than the overall average, both in numbers and in average income”.
So what are we left with? We went from a middle class that represents 34% of Africa’s population to one that represents 1-2%. But this tiny group is not middle class: they are very rich households that have the fastest-growing incomes. Ultimately, what we are seeing is not a pyramid bulging in the middle as in the picture drawn by the AfDB. The numbers from McKinsey and Standard Bank describe a society where the top spenders are getting richer. This may be good news for some banks and investors, but it does not carry the same connotations for social scientists. A fact-based outlook, however, is the best path. Does Africa’s population really have more spending power? Are fewer Africans hungry?

Give Africans A Voice

Journalist and author Howard W. French and more than 150 other writers and professors sent a letter to "60 Minutes" faulting the prestigious CBS News program for its "frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent."

"In a series of recent segments from the continent, 60 Minutes has managed, quite extraordinarily, to render people of black African ancestry voiceless and all but invisible," French, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, wrote in the letter, which was signed by college professors and writers from across America.

French's primary example was Lara Logan's reporting on the Ebola crisis. "In that broadcast, Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims," he wrote. "They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest.  Liberians were shown within easy speaking range of Logan, including some Liberians whom she spoke about, and yet not a single Liberian was quoted in any capacity." He said he centered on 60 Minutes, specifically, because he found Logan's segment on Ebola "deeply shocking in the way that it eliminated Liberians themselves from the story about the Ebola crisis sweeping that country…"This story came after a fairly extensive debate in the US about the disproportionate attention given to the relatively tiny exposure to Ebola faced in this country, compared to the toll that the disease had generated in a swath of West Africa," he wrote. "Logan proceed nonetheless to outdo the very worst of that kind of unbalanced coverage by going to Liberia and avoiding, or at least failing to broadcast the voices of Liberians -- not even as simple victims, which would have been the easy and stereotypical thing to do."

French also cited two segments "featuring white people who have made it their mission to rescue African wildlife." People of black African descent "make no substantial appearance in either of these reports, and no sense whatsoever is given of the countries visited, South Africa and Gabon," he wrote. French characterized 60 Minutes' coverage of Africa as "narrow, blinkered and anachronistic, like that, unfortunately, of a lot of coverage elsewhere in the press on TV, and indeed in Hollywood, for that matter. Very little interest is accorded to the actual lives of Africans."

Who Owns The Nile

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Fight Against Disease

The world focused on Ebola but what about malaria and measles? Sierra Leone had some of the highest rates of death from tuberculosis, malaria and measles in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres says the Ebola outbreak has affected the attitudes of people towards modern healthcare.

A study published in the journal, Science, earlier this month warns that measles could cause as many deaths as Ebola after vaccinations were disrupted.
"We project that after six to 18 months of disruptions, a large connected cluster of children unvaccinated for measles will accumulate across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone," the study says. It finds that the number of children susceptible to measles in the three countries is expected to double, resulting in between 2,000 and 16,000 additional deaths.

Nearly 500 health workers - most of them local - have died as a result of Ebola

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Seed Privatisation - Control Seeds, Contol Food

Food sovereignty activists are shining a light on a closed-door meeting between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which are meeting in London on Monday with representatives of the biotechnology industry to discuss how to privatize the seed and agricultural markets of Africa.

Early Monday, protesters picketed outside the Gates Foundation's London offices holding signs that called on the foundation to "free the seeds." Some demonstrators handed out packets of open-pollinated seeds, which served as symbol of the "alternative to the corporate model promoted by USAID and BMGF." Others smashed a piñata, which they said represented the "commercial control of seed systems;" thousands of the seeds which filled the pinata spilled across the office steps. A similar protest is expected later Monday in Seattle, Washington, where BMGF is headquartered.

The meeting was convened to discuss a report put forth by Monitor-Deloitte, which was commissioned by BMGF and USAID to develop models for the commercialization of seed production in Africa, especially "early generation seed," and to identify ways in which the African governmental sectors could facilitate private involvement in African seed systems. The study was conducted in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia on maize, rice, sorghum, cowpea, common beans, cassava and sweet potato.
However, food sovereignty activists are sounding the alarm over the secret meeting. Heidi Chow, food sovereignty campaigner with Global Justice Now, which organized Monday's protest, warned that the agenda being promoted by these stakeholders will only increase corporate control over seeds.
"This is not 'aid' - it's another form of colonialism," said Chow. "We need to ensure that the control of seeds and other agricultural resources stay firmly in the hands of small farmers who feed the majority of the population in Africa, rather than allowing big agribusiness to dominate even more aspects of the food system."

In a blog post, Chow further explained:
For generations, small farmers have been able to save and swap seeds. This vital practice enables farmers to keep a wide range of seeds which helps maintain biodiversity and helps them to adapt to climate change and protect from plant disease. However, this system of seed saving is under threat by corporations who want to take more control over seeds. Big seed companies are keen to grow their market share of commercial seeds in Africa and alongside philanthropic organizations like the Gates Foundation and aid donors, they are discussing new ways to increase their market penetration of commercial seeds and displacing farmers own seed systems. 
Corporate-produced hybrid seeds often produce higher yields when first planted, but the second generation seeds will produce low yields and unpredictable crop traits, making them unsuitable for saving and storing. This means that instead of saving seeds from their own crops, farmers who use hybrid seeds become completely dependent on the seed companies that sell them.
Further, many of the seeds produced by these biotechnology giants are sold alongside chemical fertilizer and pesticides, manufactured by the very same companies, the use of which often leads to widespread environmental destruction and other health problems.

As others noted, while the meeting attendees included representatives from the World Bank and Syngenta, the world’s third biggest seed and biotechnology company, no farmers or farming organizations were represented at the talks.
"Seeds are vital for our food system and our small farmers have always been able to save and swap seeds freely," Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah, chair of Food Sovereignty Ghana, said in a press statement. "Now our seed systems are increasingly under threat by corporations who are looking to take more control over seeds in their pursuit of profit. This meeting will push this corporate agenda to hand more control away from our small farmers and into the hands of big seed companies."

Reporting on the Monitor-Deloitte study, Ian Fitzpatrick, a food sovereignty researcher for Global Justice Now, said that documents circulated ahead of the meeting revealed a neo-liberal agenda "laid bare."
Fitzpatrick writes:
The report recommends that in countries where demand for patented seeds is weaker (i.e. where farmers are using their own seed saving networks), public-private partnerships should be developed so that private companies are protected from ‘investment risk’. It also recommends that that NGOs and aid donors should encourage governments to introduce intellectual property rights for seed breeders and help to persuade farmers to buy commercial, patented seeds rather than relying on their own traditional varieties. 
Finally, in line with the broader neoliberal agenda of agribusiness companies across the world, the report suggests that governments should remove regulations (like export restrictions) so that the seed sector is opened up to the global market. 
"This neoliberal agenda of deregulation and privatization, currently promoted in almost every sphere of human activity—from food production to health and education—poses a serious threat to food sovereignty and the ability of food producers and consumers to define their own food systems and policies," Fitzpatrick adds.

AGRA Watch, a program of the grassroots group Community Alliance for Social Justice, notes that the BMGF-USAID commercial seed agenda further "extends U.S. foreign policy into Africa on behalf of corporate interests."
Phil Bereano, food sovereignty campaigner with AGRA Watch and an Emeritus Professor at the University of Washington added: "This is an extension of what the Gates Foundation has been doing for several years—working with the US government and agribusiness giants like Monsanto to corporatize Africa’s genetic riches for the benefit of outsiders. Don’t Bill and Melinda realize that such colonialism is no longer in fashion? It’s time to support African farmers’ self-determination."

from here

Monday, March 23, 2015

Natural Resources – Who Are The Rightful Owners?

As the world lurches from crisis to crisis, the value of land, water, forests, minerals and other natural resources as sources of wealth creation continues to rise. For those with long-standing ties to land,water and territories, nature’s greatest wealth and value is life itself, and these crises simply confirm the necessity for humans to live symbiotically with nature. However for many, natural resources are things that can be parceled, packaged, changed, bought, sold and traded in markets far away from the original location of the resource.
The attribution of rights to natural resources reflects these differences. 

Corporations, financial institutions and many governments promote marketable rights through land titles, water trading rights, emis- sions trading, etc. Most governments recognize those who can pay most as rights holders to land, water, minerals and forests. For peasants, fisherfolk, workers, indigenous peoples and rural and urban poor, their rights to resources are legitimate claims to lands and eco-systems that are rooted in respect for nature, as well as their rights to self determination. The realization of these rights is a necessary precondition for building democratic and just governance systems, and ensuring peace and harmony with nature.

One particular example: Dominion Farm’s land grab in Nigeria

Farmers in Nigeria’s Taraba State are being forced off lands that they have farmed for generations to make way for U.S. company Dominion Farms to establish a 30,000 ha rice plantation. The project is backed by the Nigerian government and the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa.
The lands being given to Dominion Farms are part of a public irrigation scheme that thousands of families depend on for their food needs and livelihoods. The local people were not consulted about the deal with Dominion Farms and, although the company has already started to occupy the lands, they are still completely in the dark about any plans for compensation or resettlement. Local people oppose the Dominion Farms project. They want their lands back so that they can continue to produce food for their families and the people of Nigeria (...).

Quotes from local farmers speaking during meetings with ERA and CEED at Gassol community:

“We were happy when we heard of the coming of the Dominion Farms not knowing it was for the selfish interest of some few members of the State, Federal Government and the foreigner in charge of the Dominion Farms. Our land is very rich and good. (..) But since Dominion Farms people arrived
with their machine and some of their working equipment we were asked to stop our farm work and even leave our lands as the land is completely given to the Dominion Farms project. (...)”
- Mallam Danladi K Jallo 

“We are speaking in one voice against Dominion Farms because we are opposing their activities. We have fish ponds that we inherited from our forefathers on that land, but Dominion Farm has said that they will sand fill all of them to give them more space to plant their crops. When they commenced
work on the land they came with security personnel whom Dominion Farms mandated to evict all farmers who were working on their lands.”
- Alhaji Mairiga Musa 

“We do not subscribe to a foreign agricultural and farming system that we do not have knowledge. They came here to farm. The only story we hear is that our land is taken away and will be given out.
We were not involved at any level. For the sake of the future and our children, we are requesting governmental authorities to ask Dominion Farms to stay away from our land”
– Rebecca Sule (Mama Tina)

Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Friends of the Earth Nigeria, CEED,