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Obama's 'Poverty-Relieving' Plan for Africa a Profit Boon for Giant Agribusiness

$3 billion investment from BigAg leaves sustainable agriculture, small-scale farmers' voices behind

Common Dreams staff

President Obama's announcement today of $3 billion in private investments in a poverty- and hunger-relieving plan for Africa is set to be a boon for giant agribusiness, a move critics say leaves small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods in the dust.

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The pledged investments come from agricultural behemoths including Dupont, Monsanto and Cargill.

The G8, now meeting in Maryland, has presented a view of private investments as a way of solving poverty.

“The G8 must not give in to the temptation to make bold and convenient assumptions about the private sector as a development panacea,” said Gawain Kripke, Director of Policy and Research at Oxfam America.

Raj Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, argued that a public-sector solution to alleviating hunger is "highly unlikely." Kripke, however, dismisses that claim.

“There is no evidence that the growing focus on private sector engagement at the expense of other approaches will truly deliver for the fight against hunger,” said Kripke.

The planned investment does not bring the voices of small-scale farmers to the table, but does set a plan for massive profits to be reaped by giant agribusiness.  “The rhetoric is all about small-scale producers, but they haven’t yet been a part of the G-8’s conversation,” Lamine Ndiaye of Oxfam said. Giant agribusiness' "objective is not to fight against hunger; their objective is to make money” Ndiaye said.

Ronnie Cummins, Director of Organic Consumers Association, states that the Obama approach to alleviating hunger through the investment of corporations is "misguided." "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."

"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,” added Cummins.

* * *

Reuters: Obama to announce $3 billion from private sector to relieve hunger in Africa

U.S. President Barack Obama will announce a new public-private partnership program on Friday, seeking to spur this weekend’s summit of the wealthy G8 to focus on market methods to boost production, particularly among hardscrabble small-scale farmers in Africa who may hold the key to improved world food supplies. [...]

Other partnership projects include seed product packs tailored to African farmers from Swiss agrochemicals giant Syngenta, improved telecommunications access from British telecoms firm Vodafone and a potential African site for a proposed $2 billion fertilizer production facility planned by Norway’s Yara International.

* * *

McClatchy: Obama to announce Africa farm plan to relieve poverty

President Barack Obama will announce an alliance Friday with nearly 50 companies to boost productivity among small farmers in Africa with the goal of lifting 50 million people out of poverty.

Business executives from agricultural giants such as DuPont and Monsanto will join Obama, along with the leaders of three African countries who have pledged policy changes that U.S. officials say will improve business climates and encourage investment.

* * *

Statement from Ronnie Cummins, Director of Organic Consumers Association:

“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.”


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