Attracted by high growth rates and untapped markets, big companies like Monsanto, Unilever and Nestlé are setting their sights on Africa. To help them there are a number of initiatives, championed by governments like the UK, that claim to support agricultural production in Africa.
However, the real beneficiaries of these schemes are the companies themselves who are set to increase their control over Africa’s land, seeds and markets at the expense of small-scale farmers who feed most of the continent.
The most recent of these initiatives is the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Launched in 2012, the New Alliance provides aid money and facilitates big business to invest in the African agricultural sector.
There are currently ten African countries signed up: Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Nigeria and Senegal. In addition, around 50 multinational companies including Monsanto, Cargill and Unilever and around 100 African companies are also involved.
In return for aid money and corporate investment, African countries signed up the New Alliance are required to make policy changes in land, seed and trade rules. These changes will:
- Make it easier for big corporations to grab land in Africa.
- Prevent farmers from age-old traditions of breeding, saving and exchanging seeds.
- Heavily promote the increased use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides that farmers become reliant on, increasing their risk of getting into debt, damaging the environment and farmers’ health.
- Create low paid, insecure jobs.
- Prevent the export of crops even when its needed in time of emergency.
In many cases, the aid money and investment promised by the corporations prioritises crops for export (including tobacco, palm oil and biofuel crops) rather than supporting small farmers to grow crops sustainably for local consumption.
What can be done?
Around 100 farmers groups in Africa have described schemes like the New Alliance as a ‘new wave of colonialism’ – a twenty-first century bid to take control of Africa’s land and resources, sponsored by the world’s richest governments.
In solidarity with small farmers and civil society groups in Africa, WDM is calling on the UK government to stop funding schemes like the New Alliance that require African governments to make policy changes that favour large corporations.
The first step would be for the UK government to stop channelling £600m of UK aid money through the New Alliance. Instead UK aid should be used to support the policies that promote food sovereignty. This will enable small farmers to maintain control over their resources to produce food sustainably and prioritising food for local populations over exports.
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