Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hollow Promises

"Today we commit to launch a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to accelerate the flow of private capital to African agriculture...This New Alliance will lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade," the G-8 said in a statement.

Oxfam warned the announcement focuses too heavily on the role of the private sector to tackle the complex challenges of food insecurity in the developing world. The organization called instead for G8 leaders to keep the promises they have already made to help developing countries. Remember the 2005 G-8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland? The USA, Canada, Italy, France, the UK, Germany, Japan and Russia promised Africans to provide an extra $25bn a year for Africa as part of a $50bn increase in financial assistance by 2010. Well, unsurprisingly, the extra $25 billion hasn't been realised and neither has the additional $50 billion. Remember three years ago, at the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italythe leaders of the world's richest countries pledged $22 billion to poor countries that had goods plans to tackle hunger. Seven months away from the end of the L'Aquila initiative but the G8 countries are still fulfil their pledges.

"The New Alliance is neither new nor a true alliance," said Oxfam's Lamine Ndiaye.

The G-8 is promising to simply point their private companies towards Africa's shores.  As if  private companies haven't already jumped on the Africa bandwagon  to make profits for themselves. If they can't make a healthy return, then why should they invest? Altruism? Private-sector entities "don't answer to other G8 leaders, they answer to their shareholders," noted Oxfam's Porter McConnell in a blog post.

 Nor is it the lack of Western agricultural investment is the reason that our children either die of hunger or suffer stunted growth. Quite, the contrary when many countries are confronted by the inward investment of international land-grab and the consequent displacement of local people to make way for the creation of commercial cash-crop agriculture. With global food demand expected to grow by at least 70 percent by 2050 and with sub-Saharan Africa home to up to 60 percent of the world's unused arable land. A half century ago, Africa was a food exporter. Many wish for it to be again but without feedng its own people first.

Agribusiness giants such as DuPont, Monsanto and Cargill , along with smaller companies will commit some billions of dollars for projects to help farmers in the developing world build local markets and improve productivity.The New Alliance is a top down plan that does not reflect what many people in poor countries say they want or need. The solutions for problems must come from within, not without. One doesn't need a huge surge of dollars to feed the mouths of our children.

Neil Watkins, policy director at the U.S. aid group ActionAid voiced concern it may be difficult to link up the world's giant agribusiness companies with some of its poorest farm laborers. "These marginal farmers aren't likely to be targets for corporate investment," Watkins said. "Corporate investment is not a silver bullet for food security in Africa."

Africa's salvation won't come from Camp David but from African farmers and small-scale producers, particularly women. Smallholder farmers need the freedom to pursue their own growing strategies.

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