Daily Archives: December 25, 2021

Africa’s land use problem: Is Green Revolution agriculture a solution or a cause? | IATP

Dec 3, 2021, by Timothy Wise

The following article was originally published on The Elephant on December 3, 2021.

By all accounts, food and agriculture were barely on the agenda at this month’s UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland. They should have been. Food production, distribution, consumption, and waste contribute an estimated one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. In production, the majority comes from unsustainable livestock production with another large share coming from unsustainable production and use of synthetic fertilizers. But a significant share also comes from “land use change”, a neutral term for the destructive expansion of agriculture onto new land.

That sort of “extensification” of agriculture can have serious environmental consequences – deforestation, soil erosion, unsustainable water use, etc. Those in turn have important implications for climate change, as a recent UN report highlighted. Land use changes due to agricultural expansion increase carbon emissions from land clearing, eliminate carbon dioxide-absorbing plants such as rainforests, and create greenhouse gases with incoming modern farming methods. According to the UN, they account for about 30 per cent of agriculture-related emissions.

The simplifying neo-Malthusian perspective attributes extensification to growing populations exerting pressure on scarce natural resources. Increasing farmers’ productivity on existing lands in regions such as Africa where yields are relatively low is the mainstream solution. The goal is to foster “sustainable intensification” – growing more food on the same land. With commercial inputs such as commercial seeds and synthetic fertilizers, farmers can intensify their exploitation of existing agricultural land, raising productivity and easing pressures from growing populations to bring new lands into cultivation.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was founded 15 years ago to address the productivity problem. With generous funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations, the alliance set out to reduce chronic hunger and poverty by increasing yields in key food crops through the expanded use of commercial seeds and fertilizers. This is the “technology package” credited with raising agricultural productivity in what came to be known as the first Green Revolution in India and other parts of Asia and Latin America in the 1970s.

Africa’s Green Revolution has largely failed to promote either sustainability or intensification. Evidence suggests that the initiatives, which include high levels of government subsidies for farmers to use Green Revolution inputs, are both failing to raise productivity and contributing to the unsustainable expansion of farming onto new lands.

My research shows that excessive incentives to maize and a few commercial crops have persuaded farmers to shift land out of other nutritious crops while expanding production onto new lands. The result is higher maize production but without significant productivity increases. Meanwhile, we see rising levels of malnourishment and undernourishment as poor farmers fail to benefit from rising productivity but see their families’ diet diversity decline as the diversity of food crops in their fields declines.

Climate change and the unaddressed pandemic emergency are contributing to a deep hunger crisis in Africa. The worst dangers of famine are in areas of conflict such as Ethiopia, but hunger is more widespread. The United Nations has recorded a 50 percent increase in the number of severely undernourished people in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2006. Underlying that deprivation is a model of agricultural development that is encouraging unsustainable land use and undermining crop and diet diversity.

These alarming outcomes have prompted African food producing organizations to call on donors to end their support for AGRA and other Green Revolution programmes. They call for a shift to agroecological initiatives that have been shown to generate sustainable productivity improvements across a range of food crops, addressing the need for more food and more nutritious diets while easing pressures on unsustainable land use.

Redoubling climate damage

Neither evidence nor entreaties have persuaded Green Revolution leaders that their strategies may be misguided. In October, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia and current Chair of the Board of AGRA, acknowledged the problem. “Over the last two decades, the African continent has registered the most rapid rate of agricultural production growth of any region of the world,” he wrote in an opinion column for African Arguments. “Unfortunately, most of this growth has been through the expansion of agricultural land, not an increase in productivity. With our population expected to double by the middle of the century, our farmers need to continue growing more, while using fewer resources.” He went on to argue that the intensive use of Green Revolution seeds and fertilizers could achieve that. He has urged governments and donors to redouble Green Revolution efforts.

…(read more).


African civil society publicly challenges Green Revolution backers | IATP


Sep 7, 2021 by Cecelia Heffron

The following article was originally published by Food Tank on September 7, 2021.

The calls from African voices are mounting for international donors to stop funding programs that promote an extractive model of industrial agriculture in Africa, including the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

A new letter signed

by all 35 members of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Africa’s largest civil society network, along with a growing list of international organizations, demands that donors redirect funding from AGRA and other Green Revolution programs to African-led efforts to expand agroecology and other low-input farming systems. AFSA members elaborated on the demands of the letter during a virtual press conference on September 2.

Next week, AFSA will deliver the letter to AGRA donors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and U.S., British, German, Dutch and Canadian governments, during AGRA’s annual Green Revolution Forum. In June, AFSA sent a letter to AGRA donors asking for evidence that the program is benefiting African farmers. AFSA received few replies and no evidence, prompting the public letter.

Two Visions for Agriculture in Africa

During the press conference, Million Belay, general coordinator of AFSA, stressed that the vision of agriculture promoted by AGRA is wildly at odds with the vision of African farmers, fisherfolk, Indigenous peoples, pastoralists, faith-based institutions, women’s networks, and civil society at large.

The first vision, the Green Revolution, has very powerful proponents backing it, including corporations, governments and government agencies, and philanthropists like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, explained Belay. The Green Revolution promotes intensive monocultural commodity crop production and heavy reliance on chemical inputs, agrichemicals, artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Converting farmers to commercial seeds and chemical use comes at a cost to famers, by increasing their dependence on corporations, and to the environment.

This vision has had its chance to play out in Africa over the past 15 years under the leadership of AGRA. According to AFSA’s letter, “AGRA uses its financial leverage to encourage African governments to focus on boosting agricultural yields at the expense of hunger and poverty on the continent, including centuries of exploitation of the continent’s people and natural resources that have not benefited Africans.”

Recent analysis by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Senior Advisor Timothy A. Wise confirms that AGRA’s program has failed to increase yields substantially and sustainably, instead increasing hunger. According to Wise, “After 15 years and one billion dollars in outside funding, AGRA has failed to catalyze a productivity revolution in African agriculture. Farmers’ yields have not grown significantly, poverty remains endemic, and the number of chronically hungry people in AGRA’s 13 focus countries increased 30 percent. It is time for donors to listen to African farmers and community leaders.” AGRA itself has not produced any compelling evidence of the program’s effectiveness.

The Agroecological Alternative

The rallying cry of African civil society is not that funders stop investing in African agriculture. Rather, they are demanding that donors fund a different model of agriculture that is “democratic and responsive to the people at the heart of agriculture”—an agroecology system based on sustainable practices, equity and justice.

…(read more).


Beyond Africa’s Green Revolution: Time for donors to shift funding to agroecology | IATP

On August 3, 2021, African faith leaders presented their open letter to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation demanding that it stop promoting industrial agriculture in Africa. They joined the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) on September 2 to demand that donors stop funding the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AFSA in June sent a letter to the

Gates Foundation and other donors, including USAID, UKAID, and the Rockefeller Foundation, to shift their funding away from AGRA and toward agroecology. They received few responses and no evidence of AGRA’s effectiveness.

According to research by IATP’s Timothy A. Wise, the Green Revolution in Africa has failed to deliver on its goals of doubling productivity and incomes for 30 million small-scale farming households while reducing food insecurity by half by 2020. Far from reducing hunger, the number of undernourished people in AGRA’s 13 focus countries increased 30% since AGRA’s founding in 2006.

AGRA has offered no credible evidence of its success, yet its leaders are reportedly preparing a fund drive to raise $1 billion in new funding at the September African Green Revolution Forum hosted by AGRA. AGRA’s Board Chair defended the program in an opinion piece. AFSA responded with its own opinion piece: “Time to change course: The future is agroecology.”

AGRA’s board chair defended the program in an opinion piece. AFSA responded with its own opinion piece: “Time to change course: The future is agroecology.” IATP’s Wise, who directs IATP’s Future of Food project, published his own response AGRA’s opinion: “Time to change course, not double down on failing Green Revolution.”

…(read more).


SlaveVoyages Team

Henry Louis Gates Introduces the Slave Voyages Website

Skip-Eltis-CenterAn introduction to the new Slave Voyages website that brings new data, functionalities, and user experience, unveiling what is new and behind the scene of the new Slave Voyages.




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