In 2006, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was launched as a joint initiative of the Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation. AGRA's primary goal is to alleviate poverty and reduce hunger in Africa through agricultural development that targets small-scale farmers.
Unfortunately, the Foundation promotes industrial farming, inappropriate technologies, and pro-corporate policies that threaten to make things worse for the hungry, small farmers, consumer health, and the environment in Africa. A handful of large-scale farmers and transnational agribusiness corporations, like Monsanto and Syngenta, may be the only real beneficiaries of AGRA. In the words of a representative of the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, "AGRA is poison for our farming systems and livelihoods. Under the philanthropic banner of greening agriculture, AGRA will eventually eat away what little is left of sustainable small-scale farming in Africa."
Many farmers in Africa are calling for an alternative approach to sustaining their communities and land. "African farmers are seeking food sovereignty and not imposed unhealthy foods," says Kenyan biointensive farmer Samuel Nderitu. "Indigenous knowledge that has been embraced by farmers in Africa for decades has been farmer friendly, environmentally sound and humane, as opposed to modernized agriculture...African food is healthy and nutritious. We don't need GMOs!" Indeed, scientific studies show that small-scale sustainable agriculture has the potential to revitalize rural economies, mitigate climate change and its effects, restore and preserve the environment, eradicate poverty, and provide healthy, culturally appropriate food for all.
You can make a difference TODAY by pressuring the Gates Foundation to support real solutions to hunger, poverty, and climate change. Stand with civil society organizations, farmers, farmworkers, and farmer organizations, grassroots groups, health and consumer organizations, environmental groups, scientists, and academics in the US, Africa, and around the world in urging the Gates Foundation to support African solutions to African problems.
This petition is the companion to an organizational sign-on letter to the Foundation. Visit the AGRA Watch website to learn more!
Many highly credible and comprehensive scientific studies confirm the superior effectiveness of small-scale agroecological farming.
• The UN and World Bank’s 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report concludes that feeding the hungry and protecting the environment will require moving away from industrial agriculture and toward agroecological methods.
• The IAASTD warns that high-tech solutions (such as genetic engineering) are more likely to exacerbate the social inequities and environmental degradation behind hunger than to solve it.
• The U.S. Rodale Institute’s Farm System Trial (FST) established that organic crop yields rival chemical yields in years of average precipitation and surpass them in times of drought and flooding.
• The FST proved that organic production uses 30% less energy and creates 15% more jobs, as well as storing large amounts of carbon in the soil.
In spite of the compelling scientific evidence provided by such studies that agroecological farming has the potential to address hunger, poverty, and climate change, the Foundation is heavily funding industrial agricultural development in Africa. Ultimately, this approach will drive many small-scale farmers into debt, off their land, and into urban slums with no employment opportunities—a recipe for increased corporate profits and hunger, not food security.
We also find the Foundation’s involvement in GE research and development and lobbying for its use in Africa to be particularly problematic and misguided.
• Considerable independent research demonstrates some of the risks GE poses to the environment, agricultural systems, and human health, while many consequences still remain insufficiently researched.
• The merits of GE as a technology are unproven. Evaluation of research and actual productivity in commercial operation has shown that there have been no intrinsic increases in yield and further that any gains in productivity of GMO crops have been short termed at best.
• Patented GE products are expensive, and aggressive expansion of intellectual property rights will facilitate corporate rather than farmer control of inputs.
• Genetic contamination of indigenous varieties poses an enormous threat to already declining biodiversity—the foundation of resilient traditional and organic farming systems that promise real solutions to contemporary problems.
Your funding decisions and strategies should be determined through a real and open consultation with African communities and farmer organizations in accordance with the principles of food sovereignty, a framework being embraced throughout the world which asserts the right of peoples to define and control their own food and agriculture systems. To reach our shared goal of a future without hunger, the Foundation’s resources would be best directed to financing the many African agroecological projects that already exist— projects that are undermined by the spread of industrial agriculture.
We urge the Gates Foundation to rethink its role in the efforts to eradicate hunger and to work in collaboration with people on the ground in order to bring about a world that will better provide for future generations. We will be watching your work with great interest, as well as continuing to support the self-determination of African peoples on these issues.