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Group Challenges Oil Firms On Land Encroachment in Africa

by Tony Ita Etim

Port Harcourt, Nigeria — Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have declared their opposition to land grabbing by multinational companies, Genetically Modified crops and AGRA.

Oil pipelines are seen running through Okrika, a town in the Niger delta. Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have declared their peaceful opposition to land grabbing by multinational companies, Genetically Modified crops and AGRA. (AFP/File/Pius Utomi Ekpei) This was part of a communiqué issued at the end of a conference on AGRA, Land Grabs and Non-Ecological Agriculture hosted by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) to discuss the challenge posed by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) - an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation

According to the communiqué signed by all the participants, "In conclusion, we are united in our opposition to land grabs, GMOs, Agrofuels, and AGRA on the continent. We call on all progressive-minded peoples and organisations to support our call."

The participants observed that there is need to build knowledge and resistance to land grabs on the continent and other non-ecological agriculture that threaten African agriculture and food sovereignty.

The communiqué recommended that there is urgent need for public debate/awareness on GMO/Agrofuels and AGRA while Africa should not be a dumping ground for unverified technologies such as genetically modified crops

The participants continued that governments in Africa must initiate, implement and sustain policies that guarantee the protection of small scale farmers and provide them subsidies and needed inputs to ensure increased food production and general food sovereignty

African governments, the communiqué demanded, must adequately fund local research to boost agricultural yields and must also shun all donor-driven funds that will not support indigenous solutions to hunger in Africa

According to the participants, the capacity of local scientists must be built to strengthen home-grown approaches to agriculture that is suitable for the environment and economy

The communiqué advocated that the capacity of communities, journalists and food advocacy groups must be strengthened to enable them adequately play their roles as watchdog in the society while the media must be allowed unfettered access to information through initiation of laws that will guarantee freedom of information

Participants insisted that there must be transparency in government dealings on biotechnology industry with citizens while laws on land policy on the continent must be reviewed to eliminate all forms of diplomatic immunity or unnecessary privilege conferred on investors in community lands

They also demanded the adoption of eco-friendly solutions that have proven far cheaper than so-called GM solutions that have only impoverished farmers and robbed them of livelihoods as verified cases in parts of Africa have shown

"We demand that African governments take adequate steps to protect local farmers and the entirety of Africans from unhelpful schemes that have created hunger and food shortages on the continent

"Civil society organizations should strengthen and support national and regional networks working against AGRA and land grabs in Africa."

In his welcome words, ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey said that AGRA, GMO and the agrofuels initiatives promoted by big agribusinesses only aim to erode Africa's traditional systems of farming and contamination of indigenous seeds in favour of engineered varieties.

Bassey noted that the convergence of all the agricultural initiatives of the biotechnology industry and their allies in the donor-driven research institutions towards Africa, is targeted at re-colonizing the continent and entrenching hunger by undermining its food sovereignty.