Friday, June 29, 2007

Africa - Bill Gates Charity - No Solution

“Now it’s Africa’s turn. This is only the beginning of the continent’s Green Revolution. The end goal is that within 20 years, farmers will double or even triple their yields and sell the surplus at market. This is a vision of a new Africa, where farmers aren’t doomed to a life of hunger and poverty, where people can look toward future with promise.”
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 12 September 2006

Africa is often looked upon as backward and primitive , yet the birth-place of homo sapiens ( "wise man" or "knowing man" ) has developed its own and appropriate means of sustenance that successfully maintained its populations for tens of thousands of years and provided the knowledge for the rest of the world . African farming represents a wealth of innovation: for example, the US and Canada's main export wheat is derived from a Kenyan variety called "Kenyan farmer"; and the Zera Zera sorghum grown in Texas originated in Ethiopia and the Sudan.

With much fanfare and trumpeting the Bill Gates charity along with the Rockefeller Foundation launched the "Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa" investing over $150 million towards shifting African agriculture to a system dependent on expensive, harmful chemicals, monocultures of hybrid seeds, and ultimately genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Another initiative funded by the G8 is pushing biotechnology in agriculture through four new major Biosciences research centres in Africa. The charity headed by Bill Clinton’s foundation had pledged fertilizers and irrigation systems support to Rwandan farmers. Another US ex-president, Jimmy Carter, teamed up with a Japanese tycoon to launch the “Sasakawa 2000” project to bring seeds and fertilizers to Africa. GM companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta are entering into public-private-partnership agreements with national agricultural research centres in Africa, in order to direct agricultural research and policy towards GMOs. The core of these initiatives is the breeding of new seeds and getting Africa’s small farmers to use them. The Green Revolution is often described as an agricultural development project based on the breeding of new crop varieties that respond better to fertilizer, agrochemicals and irrigation.

This so-called "green revolution" or "gene revolution" is being done once again under the guise of solving hunger in Africa yet GRAIN claim it fails to address the real causes of hunger in Africa. Farmers in Africa cannot afford these expensive agricultural inputs and in fact these agricultural reforms are being driven by the industry's demand for new markets--not to meet the needs of farmers . The new foreign systems will encourage Africa's land and water to be privatised for growing inappropriate export crops, biofuels and carbon sinks, instead of food for people.

While the head of the Microsoft empire puts up most of the money, the real mover behind this initiative is the Rockefeller Foundation. who tried to explain away previous failed endeavours on the complexity of Africa’s agriculture and its lack of infrastructure as reasons why the new Green Revolution largely ‘bypassed’ this continent but according to GRAIN Green Revolution technology didn’t simply just ‘bypass’ Africa: it failed. It was unpopular and ineffective. Fertiliser use, for example, increased substantially from the 1970s onwards in sub-Saharan Africa, while per capita agricultural production fell. In Malawi, despite the widespread release of hybrid maize, the average maize yield remains roughly what it was in 1961.

With this evidence instead of offering another better and improved approach from Gates-Rockefeller experts , it has been more of the same - more fertilizer use, more irrigation, better infrastructure and more trained scientists. Together with these same corporations, which are constantly merging together, are now spending billions of dollars promoting yet another technological fix: genetic engineering. This new technology, which, like pesticides before it, is fraught with risks to human health and the environment, is particularly troubling because it has the potential to give corporations complete control over the global seed supply and, therefore over the production of food in the world. In this agriculture, farmers are merely recipients of technology, forced to sign contracts that dictate what can and cannot be done in their fields and with their crops.

Progress is being guided by the interests of transnational corporations, not by the collective wisdom of its rural communities. Totally ignored is the central role of local communities, their traditional seed systems and rich indigenous knowledge, despite increased international recognition of their crucial importance .

Under pressure from international and bilateral trade instruments African governments are increasingly opening up their markets to let their farmers “compete” with the heavily subsidised food and other agricultural produce dumped into their economies by the US and the EU. The same African governments are then forced by the same agencies to devote their most fertile land to the growing of export commodities for markets in the North, thus pushing small farmers off their land and food production out of rural economies.

For more about the dark shadows cast by Bill Gates Foundation and his philanthropy read here and also his cohort Warren Buffett here

The above article is collated from GRAIN , a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge.

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