- Burkina Faso
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- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
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- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Aid for Farmers Fails
The message from farmers’ groups in Tanzania is clear. They don’t want an agricultural system that is dominated by large transnational companies; they don’t want to be dependent on purchasing synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides; and they certainly don’t want a commercialized seed system that sees them being forced in to purchasing new seeds every season.
‘Tell your government to stop helping big corporations coming to Tanzania and profiting from small-scale farmers in order to build their corporate empires,’ was just one of Janet Moro’s impassioned messages she had for the UK. As the founding director of Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT). SAT’s focuses on organic farming techniques that use only locally available resources means farmers are entirely self-sufficient and the soils and local environment are protected.
It’s not just SAT; there are other projects across the country where small-scale farmers are rejecting synthetic inputs and mechanized production methods. Chololo Eco-village in Dodoma, a particularly dry part of the country, is another such example. Between 2011 and 2014 farmers have more than doubled their crop yields following the adoption of techniques such as crop rotation, intercropping and open pollinated breeding for improved seeds.
Tanzanian farmers do not need schemes like the G7’s New Alliance to improve their yields and continue to feed the world’s population. This argument is all the more convincing because these farmers aren’t driven by an inherently anti-corporate agenda; they simply want to see their produce flourish. And what increases yields the fastest involves utilizing local natural resources, rather than purchasing foreign synthetic inputs and technologies. It is clear that the future of our food systems rests on ensuring small-scale farmers – not corporations – are the ones in control.
Schemes such as the G7’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which, despite its name, is all about pushing policy reforms to expand industrial agriculture and attract private investments. In the three years since its launch, the New Alliance has been widely criticized by numerous civil-society groups that have highlighted how the policy reforms and investments have had an array of disastrous outcomes. From landgrabs to farmer debts, and from policy reforms that favour businesses over farmers to seed law amendments which endanger century-old farming practices, the evidence is clear: the New Alliance is going against the interests of small-scale farmers, rather than supporting them.
Stanslaus Nyembea, the policy analyst and legal officer at Mviwata, a nationwide farmers’ group that represents some 200,000 small-scale Tanzanian farmers is worried about the encroaching takeover of Tanzania’s agriculture sector by transnational corporations. ‘We see a big risk that foreign corporations want to control the agricultural sector in Tanzania, especially the markets around seeds, fertilizers, chemicals and other agro inputs,’ he said. ‘This is a serious risk to small-scale farmers who might lose their land, which is integral to their livelihoods.’
The former rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, an expert on food security reports that the New Alliance is ‘seriously deficient in a number of areas’, in particular for its silence ‘on the need to shift to sustainable modes of agricultural production’, its failure to ‘support farmers’ seed systems’ and its inability to recognize ‘the dangers associated with the emergence of a market for land rights’. He goes on to berate the New Alliance for ‘only selectively [referring] to existing international standards that define responsible investment in agriculture’ and only paying ‘lip service’ to addressing the needs of women, which is ‘effectively creating the risk that women’s rights will be negatively affected as a result’. Most crucially for a programme designed for food security and nutrition, it is ‘weak on nutrition, hardly acknowledging the links between agricultural production, food and health, and the need to support healthy and diversified diets’.