Reversing the AGRA “meta-narrative” about Africa and the ‘Green Revolution’- A conversation with Nnimmo Bassey, Timothy Wise, Vandana Shiva, Divinder Sharma, and Mamadou Goita about the failure of “The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).” [An excerpt of a longer ZOOM webinar session posted on Facebook].
Ever since the period of “legitimate trade” in pre-colonial African history, the “meta-narrative” about African indigenous agriculture has been that its practices were backward, unscientific, un-economic and destructive of basic resources including water and topsoil. Accordingly, since the intervention of colonial “agricultural experts,” the narrative line of the endlessly repeated story has been that the solution to Africa’s multiple agricultural problems lies in the progressive “improvement” of African agricultural systems through the systematic application of “science” to “transform” African agriculture from a haphazard series of “primitive” customs and folk practices into a full-fledged “modernized” and mechanized industrial agricultural production system.
The goal — so it was thought — was to re-shape purported “primitive” agricultural practices along the lines of an agro-industrial model of production thought to characterize the “successful” models of market-driven corporate agriculture that had come to dominate the economies of the “West.”
According to this story-line, the narrative of the “progressive modernization” of African agriculture required the massive adoption of mechanized production systems over large land surfaces, made possible by the use of fossil fuel intensive techniques of land clearing, planting, harvesting and processing of agricultural products for both a domestic and a foreign markets. These foreign markets were thought to be an ever expanding source of foreign exchange for country after country, and in the process export-oriented cash-crop expansion became the blueprint for Africa’s agricultural “development” strategy. As a natural consequence of this strategy African agriculture became ever more dependent upon the increased use of fossil fuels to run the machinery, apply the required fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and, in many cases, irrigation systems — all in a systematic drive to construct an edifice of industrial agriculture.
As both history and science have demonstrated, however, these models of industrial agriculture have failed to deliver for Africa. Scientists from around the world are now confirming that the industrial models of agriculture have failed both the African farmers themselves and the African countries that have lost their food self-sufficiency through their over dependence upon export-oriented production systems.
Dr. Timothy Wise has studied this process in detail throughout several African countries, and in 2020 along we several other international scientists he published a report entitled: “False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.”
This short video includes a presentation of the key themes in the critique of the “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)” among several observers who have witnessed the multiple failures of the industrial agricultural model first hand. The contributors to the online ZOOM session include: Nnimmo Bassey, Timothy Wise, Vandana Shiva, Divinder Sharma, and Mamadou Goita.
See related material: