Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Africa Land Grab

At the Group of 8 (G8) meetings, President Obama and the leaders of the rest of the world's richest nations abandoned their governments' previous commitments to donate $7.3 billion a year to end hunger in Africa, after disbursing only 58 percent of the total pledge of $22 billion and giving less than 6 percent in new money they pledged three years ago.


Instead, rich nations will leave the problem in the hands of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition where private corporations will invest $3 billion over 10 years -- Monsanto has committed $50 million -- beginning in three countries, Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia. (Human-rights activists have questioned the inclusion of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, noting that his authoritarian government has jailed dissidents and banned media access to hunger zones. The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a letter to President Obama that the Ethiopian government "routinely downplays the extent of the crisis by denying journalists access to sensitive areas and censoring independent news coverage.")


The main U.S. spokesperson for the New Alliance is USAID administrator Rajiv Shah. OCA opposed Dr. Shah's appointment because of his work for the Gates Foundation and his position as a board member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which actively promote expensive and unsustainable technologies like genetic engineering.

Ronnie Cummins, Director of the Organic Consumers Association, issued the following statement in response to the news:

"Study after study has shown that organic, agro-ecological farming practices on small diverse farms can boost yields in Africa and the developing world from 100-1000% over the yields of chemical-intensive or genetically engineered mono-crop farms. To help the world's two billion small farmers and rural villagers survive and prosper we need to help them gain access, not to genetically engineered seeds and expensive chemical inputs; but rather access to land, water, and the tools and techniques of traditional, sustainable farming: non-patented open-pollinated seeds, crop rotation, natural compost production, beneficial insects, and access to local markets. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) reduce crop yields, and increase pesticide use, even according to USDA statistics. Bill Gates, Monsanto, and Barack Obama may believe that genetic engineering and chemical-intensive agriculture are the tools to feed the world, but a look at the fatal harvest of modern agribusiness tells a different story. Not only can climate-friendly, healthy organic agriculture practices feed the world, but in fact organic farming is the only way we are going to be able to feed the world."

OCA political director Alexis Baden-Mayer prepared the following notes for a talk she gave at the Occupy G8 People's Summit, critiquing the New Alliance:

Contrary to the talking points of President Obama and the other leaders of the G8 nations, the problem of feeding the world isn't about the need to produce more food, it's about stopping the way wealthy countries are subsidizing their richest farmers, grabbing up the best land in Africa, speculating on food commodities in their financial markets, wasting food, diverting crop production to livestock feed and biofuels, and ratcheting up the costs of farming by encouraging the use of expensive and unsustainable GMO seeds, pesticides and fertilizers.

The world already produces more than 1 1/2 times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That's enough to feed 10 billion people, the population peak we expect by 2050.

70 percent of this food is produced by 3 billion small-scale food producers worldwide.

Nevertheless, 1 billion people on the planet are chronically hungry, and 70% are farmers.

If the G8 actually cared about ending hunger, they'd:

Stop Industrial-Scale Food Producers from Wasting the World's Resources

35 percent of the food produced worldwide feeds meat and dairy animals. If humans switched to all-plant diets, all that agricultural land could produce 50 percent more human food, because feeding crops to animals that then become meat is a highly inefficient way to transfer plant energy to people.

10 percent of global vegetable oil is being diverted to biodiesel.

6 percent of global grain is being diverted to ethanol.

30 to 50 percent of food intended for human consumption in the world gets wasted.

Stop Wall Street from Gambling on Hunger, and End Speculation in the Food Markets

The share of the food market owned by speculators, uninvolved in the food production process, has risen from 12% in 1996 to 61% today. The 4 biggest grain buyers, including ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Louis and Dreyfus, dominate 75- 90% of the trade in grain worldwide generating profits in the realm of $2 to 3 billion a year.

Make Trade Fair, and End Subsidies for Rich Farmers in Wealthy Countries

In the United States, Congress, in renewing the Farm Bill, is poised to continue to give away subsidies worth tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to the largest commodity crop growers and agribusinesses. As written, the bill includes a $9 billion-a-year crop insurance program to guarantee income for the most profitable farm businesses in the country. This would come primarily in the form of unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies to industrial-scale growers who can well afford to pay more of their risk management costs.

USDA's Federal Crop Insurance Board of Directors reduces crop insurance premiums for producers who plant Monsanto's genetically engineered Bt corn. Meanwhile, organic producers pay a surcharge on these policies, and payouts don't reflect their higher costs.


Promote Proven Science on Increasing Yields Rather than Pushing Unsustainable and Expensive Technologies

Small farmers struggling with poverty and hunger could be helped with techniques for producing more food. Companies like Monsanto would have us believe it's technology that these farmers need, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has reviewed the science on improving crop yields for small-scale farmers, and they found that all the science proves that it's the FAO calls agro-ecological methods -- what we know as organic -- that improves crop yields for small farmers.

An excellent report by Jill Richardson in Alternet, "How the US Sold Africa to Multinationals Like Monsanto, Cargill, DuPont, PepsiCo and Others," illustrates this fact with examples from Kenya:

The stunted, diseased corn one sees [in Kenya] was planted from the "best" store-bought seed and ample chemical fertilizer was applied. 
But the corn growing on the demonstration farm of Samuel Nderitu's NGO, Grow Biointensive Agricultural Center of Kenya (G-BIACK), is healthy and thriving. So are G-BIACK's other vegetable crops and fruit trees. Why will he harvest a successful crop when his next-door neighbor will not?

G-BIACK is an organic farming training center, and the crops there were grown with manure and compost instead of chemical fertilizer. G-BIACK also saves seeds instead of purchasing seeds from the store. The farmers in this region, near the city of Thika, farm tiny plots -- as small as one-fifth of an acre and averaging one acre. Many use chemical fertilizer, but since it is expensive, they often fail to use enough. "Here, in Kenya, if you plant anything without chemical fertilizer, if you don't know anything about organic farming, it can't grow," says Nderitu. But, as G-BIACK proves, those who do know how to farm organically achieve great success. G-BIACK was named the NGO of the Year in 2010 by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and the Government of Kenya. And its next-door neighbor with the failed crop is now attending its trainings to learn organic farming.

About 15 km outside of Thika, a farmer named James is also thrilled he switched to organic farming. Farming only one-fifth of an acre, he used to require two $60 bags of fertilizer to plant his crops. Now, he uses manure from his pigs and he is happy with the results. Like most Kenyan farmers, James grows corn, beans, pumpkins, kale, and other crops for family consumption. For income, he can sell a pregnant sow for $240 or a month-old piglet for $20. Before, he would spend much of that money on fertilizer, but now he can use it for other things. He proudly demonstrates how to use his new well, which his increased income allowed him to afford. Next, he plans to buy a water pump so he doesn't have to pull the water out of the well one bucket at a time."

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