We must stand up against trade agreements which give corporations new powers to grab land, monopolise seed distribution and benefit from an export-to-the-West model of growth.
It’s a good thing that the aid budget should be enshrined in law, but that aid money seems to have become increasingly about facilitating western multinationals in accessing and restructuring markets in countries in Africa, rather than aiding vulnerable communities. This is becoming especially apparent in the context of food production and agriculture.
Africa is seeing a new wave of colonialism as multinational corporations, aided by rich governments and financial institutions, vie to increase their control of land, seeds, water and other resources. The continent has been described as the ‘last frontier in global food and agricultural markets’ by the World Bank, and private sector and corporate investment is seen as both a good investment opportunity as well as the only way of boosting agricultural production and helping to lift people out of poverty.
The reality is that sustainable small-scale farmers produce over 70 per cent of the food consumed in Africa, on less than 15 per cent of the agricultural land available on the continent. Despite this, donors, development agencies and multilateral financial initiatives, like the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (New Alliance) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, continue to push a one-size-fits-all industrial model of agriculture and make exorbitant claims about their aims.
The New Alliance initiative, launched in 2012, aims to achieve ‘sustained and inclusive agricultural growth and raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years’.
What it doesn’t mention is that some of the projects it finances, such as agricultural growth corridors in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania (which the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) has spent almost £70 million financing), have been described as ‘likely to facilitate the appropriation of land and the displacement of small-scale farmers, while imposing high-input, industrial agriculture using hybrid and GM seed’.
DfID is currentlychannelling £600 million of aid money through the New Alliance to support agricultural development and improve food security in Africa.
This is nothing to do with helping Africa feed itself; it is about further empowering an already very powerful and bloated agribusiness sector. Clearly this needs to be challenged – to bring an end to the latest crusade for Africa’s resources. This means a radical reform of the aid system, which is currently doing more to entrench, than to break, corporate control.