We consider AGRA’s broad philosophy and structure, focusing on AGRA’s own views or those of its consultants, before turning to a more detailed consideration of its specific work in the Programme for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) and, in slightly less detail, its Soil Health Programme (SHP).
These programmes are inseparable because seed and soil fertility technologies are interlinked. Seed and fertiliser are the fundamental technological interventions on which AGRA’s strategies hang. The paper concludes with thoughts for ways for the broad agroecological and food and seed sovereignty movements to respond to AGRA.
Our conclusions include the following: AGRA is undoubtedly laying the groundwork for the commercialisation of African agriculture and its selective integration into global circuits of accumulation. Benefits will be unevenly spread and we should expect accelerated divergences in farmer interests. This will lead to greater class differentiation and a deepening commodification of African agriculture (subordinating agricultural products to the imperatives of exchange for the realisation of surplus value, rather than as use values in their own right).
The shadow of Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and other seed and agrichemical multinationals, and equity funds lie just behind the scenes of AGRA’s show. Building new markets and market infrastructure for commercial seed in Africa opens the door for future occupation by multinationals. The focus on private company development (seed companies, agro-dealers) for the production and dissemination of proprietary (and even public sector) seed is a precursor to potential acquisition at a later stage.
Small enterprises are a breeding ground for the potential extension of circuits of accumulation. Capitalism is known for ongoing absorption of ‘organically’ developed innovation, initiative and profitability by larger entities. AGRA and other capitalist interests have identified a profitable (‘bankable’) investment opportunity in smallholder agriculture in Africa, linked to Green Revolution technologies. They are now acting on that.