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Back African smallholders, not agribusiness

1.Back African smallholders, not agribusiness
2.G8's new alliance for food security and nutrition is a flawed project
3.The real winners from today's hunger summit

NOTE: Claire Robinson of GMWatch among the signatories in item 1.

Photo from this morning's protest against the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, outside the "Hunger Summit" in London:

Statement by African civil society groups condemning the New Alliance as part of a "new wave of colonialism"
1.Back African smallholders, not agribusiness
The Guardian, 7 June 2013

Today sees David Cameron host a "hunger summit" in London, the first in a series of events leading up to the G8 summit in 10 days' time. The event will include a meeting of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a private investment initiative launched by the G8 in order to expand the reach of multinational companies into Africa. The UK government has pledged GBP395m of taxpayers' money to the scheme.

African civil society groups have condemned the New Alliance as part of a "new wave of colonialism" that will hand over their farmland to foreign investors and destroy their livelihoods. Over 40 companies have signed up to the initiative, including agribusiness giants Monsanto, Syngenta, and Diageo, as well as Unilever, whose headquarters are the location of today's hunger summit.

We stand in solidarity with African civil society in rejecting the New Alliance. We call on the prime minister to withhold the GBP395m in UK aid money that he has pledged to the initiative, and to invest it instead in support for ecological smallholder farming in Africa. Members of the public are invited to join our protest outside Unilever House at 10am today.

John Hilary War on Want, Kirtana Chandrasekaran Friends of the Earth, Deborah Doane World Development Movement, Martin Drewry Health Poverty Action, Teresa Anderson The Gaia Foundation, Kate Metcalf Women's Environmental Network, Nick Dearden Jubilee Debt Campaign, Dan Taylor Find Your Feet, Pete Riley GM Freeze, Claire Robinson GMWatch
2.G8's new alliance for food security and nutrition is a flawed project
Kirtana Chandrasekaran and Nnimmo Bassey
The Guardian, 7 June 2013

*The UK government claims to be commited to ending hunger yet supports a scheme that, billed as good for Africa, is anything but.

This weekend, the UK government will host a "nutrition for growth" summit in London. The meeting is expected to expand the G8's new alliance for food security and nutrition, a special initiative launched in 2012 to mobilise private capital for investment in African agriculture.

We all agree that African agriculture is in need of support and investment. So it's good news, right?

Sadly, no. The new alliance prioritises unprecedented access for multinational companies to resources in Africa. To access cash under the initiative, African governments have to make far-reaching changes to their land, seed, and farming policies.

For a disturbing read, take a look at the new alliance's co-operation frameworks with countries. Mozambique, for example, is committed to "systematically ceasing to distribute free and unimproved [non-commercial] seeds to farmers except in emergencies". The new alliance will lock poor farmers into buying increasingly expensive seeds – including genetically modified seeds – allow corporate monopolies in seed selling, and escalate the loss of precious genetic diversity in seeds – absolutely key in the fight against hunger. It will also open the door to genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa by stopping farmers' access to traditional local varieties and forcing them to buy private seeds.

Already, under the guise of helping to fight poor nutrition in Africa, genetically engineered bananas and cassava are being tested – despite concern about their impacts, and the existence of better conventional varieties.

Several countries have been asked to speed up the takeover of land by foreign investors. Ethiopia, for instance, will "Refine land law, if necessary, to encourage long-term land leasing" (pdf), while companies are already asking for up to 500,000 hectares (12.35m acres) of land in Ivory Coast under this scheme.

Countless studies, including one by the UN special rapporteur on the right to food (pdf), have shown that large-scale land acquisitions and leases destroy the livelihoods and food security of thousands of communities, and that access to land (pdf) is essential for the right to food. This lends more than a touch of irony to the commitment by David Cameron, the UK prime minister, to address land grabbing in this G8 through the much-criticised land transparency initiative.

Already, multinational GM seed, fertiliser and grain companies such as Yara International, Monsanto, and Cargill have signed up to benefit from the new alliance, and six African countries – Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Tanzania – have signed co-operation agreements. Most of these have barely been subject to democratic scrutiny, and undermine African-led democratic initiatives to tackle hunger such as the Maputo declaration (pdf) to raise public spending on agriculture and regional agriculture policies in west Africa.

No wonder the runup to this weekend's summit has been greeted by an outcry. Networks of smallholder farmers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and environmentalists from across Africa have called the scheme "a new wave of colonialism" designed to secure profits and royalty flows out of Africa. Global civil society agrees.

It's not as if there is a dearth of opportunities for G8 countries to reduce hunger. They could scrap targets for crop-based biofuels, which are linked to hunger by a growing list of bodies including the World Bank. They could follow the advice of the UK parliament to address overconsumption of meat and support services to smallholders. They could regulate investors to stop land grabbing. And they could fund the legitimate and democratic global governance space on hunger – the committee on world food security – instead of competing with it.

But the new alliance marches on under the banner of "investment".

So there is a bigger question here – is all investment equal? No. The type of investment, where it comes from, and in which parts of the sector it happens, will determine whether we solve hunger or not. By focusing on corporate investment, Cameron is missing the point. Enabling smallholders to produce food for themselves and local populations is key.

The majority of the African population continues to rely on agriculture as its main source of income and livelihoods, and smallholder food production is also key to food security. About 70% of the world, mostly rural populations, is fed by smallholders as opposed to corporate farming, which tends to focus on exports and rich markets. Pumping huge sums into corporate farming may also flop, judging by the failure rate of such ventures in Africa.

Most importantly, smallholders are also the biggest investors in agriculture. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in low- and middle-income countries farmers invest about $170bn a year – three times as much as all other sources of investment combined. This is where we need to focus: on policies that encourage farmers to invest more themselves.

The new alliance is a flawed project. Continuing to pursue it will cast a shadow on Cameron's commitment to ending hunger.

Kirtana Chandrasekaran is a campaigner with Friends of the Earth England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Nnimmo Bassey is an executive committee member of Friends of the Earth International
3.The real winners from today's hunger summit
Christine Haigh
New Statesman, 7 June 2013

*The real causes of hunger are inequality of wealth and power, not a lack of big business. So the G8 leaders should abandon their efforts to promote the corporate takeover of African agriculture, and instead support the demands of the African farmers’ groups

The venue is a clue. Rather than being hosted at the Department for International Development, the Cabinet Office, or Number 10, today’s hunger summit is being held at the London offices of Unilever. The event, a follow-up to the gathering hosted by the PM during the Olympics, is supposed to be David Cameron’s opportunity to portray himself as a hero for the global poor, even as his government increases inequality and poverty in the UK.

Don’t mistake Unilever’s hospitality as corporate generosity at a time of austerity. A key topic on the hunger summit’s agenda is the progress of the G8’s "New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition", a public-private partnership promising to “accelerate responsible investment in African agriculture and lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022”. This ‘New Alliance’ was launched during the US G8 presidency last year. There’s plenty in it to benefit Unilever and the other multinationals – including Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta – who have signed up, but it’s much less obvious how it will translate into poverty reduction.

The New Alliance provides opportunities for these companies to "invest" in African economies, with support from the public purse of the G8 countries including GBP395 million from the UK aid budget, while being crowned with the golden halo of social responsibility.

Into the bargain, these companies also get something potentially even more valuable. So far the New Alliance involves Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Tanzania, with Benin, Malawi, Nigeria, and Senegal set to join imminently. As part of the "cooperation agreements" being set up between G8 governments, multinationals and African governments, the recipient countries of this ‘investment’ are being required to make policy commitments with far-reaching consequences for their farmers. From phasing out controls on exports to ending the free distribution of seeds, the whole initiative is set up to transfer power from domestic producers to big business.

The New Alliance will also push African countries to make it easier for private investors to take over agricultural land. Such land-grabbing has already affected an area larger than Western Europe since the start of the twenty-first century, and its dispossession and impoverishment of small-scale farmers in Africa is well-documented. David Cameron will propose a "land transparency initiative" to G8 leaders in response to calls for action to halt land-grabbing, but the proposals undermine existing initiatives and are woefully inadequate – and will be even more so in the face of the increased land acquisition push hiding under the cloak of the New Alliance.

So it’s hardly surprising that almost 200 African farmers’ and campaigners' groups have rejected the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, calling it a “new wave of colonialism” in a statement sent to G8 leaders earlier this week. Their analysis is clear: “Private ownership of knowledge and material resources (for example, seed and genetic materials) means the flow of royalties out of Africa into the hands of multinational corporations.”

This is also the reason that protests are planned to coincide with the Cameron’s hunger summit, with action in London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, and Stroud. Community food activists, growers, and campaigners will be creating pop-up community gardens in their cities to oppose this corporate-led approach and highlight the fact that small-scale producers feed half the world’s population, accounting for 80 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s food production.

The real causes of hunger are inequality of wealth and power, not a lack of big business. Small-scale food producers in poor countries need more power and control over the food system – not less. So the G8 leaders should abandon their efforts to promote the corporate takeover of African agriculture, and instead support the demands of the African farmers’ groups. Small farmers need policies which empower them, support for the existing UN food security process which is more democratic and genuinely consultative, and research into agroecological methods. The G8’s approach will only exacerbate hunger and inequality.

Christine Haigh is a food policy campaigner at the World Development Movement.