By Sabrina Masinjila and Linzi Lewis of the African Centre for Biodiversity
There are no simple answers when it comes to predicting the future of African food systems. Across the continent, the push to commercialise African agriculture to feed the growing and urbanising population, increase incomes, and reduce poverty is well known. However, this ‘solution’ is also heavily criticised for its ineffective, inappropriate and misdirected approach for Africa. It not only neglects the significant role that farmers and farmers’ seed systems have played and continue to play in maintaining agricultural biodiversity and ensuring access to seed for smallholder producers; it also criminalises and replaces this system with corporate-controlled agricultural systems. This was evident in field research we did in Tanzania in August 2017.
Our trip started in mid-August when we attended a farmer seed workshop organised by ACB in partnership with MVIWATA in Morogoro. We hoped the workshop would give policy- and decision-makers something to ponder about, regarding the current state of affairs with farmers’ local varieties. In the recent past, government has shunned farmer-managed seed systems and local varieties, but the debate in the country still rages on. It did not come as a surprise when farmers stood up
APPEAL AGAINST MONSANTO’S BOGUS GM DROUGHT TOLERANT MAIZE HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR URGENT AGRICULTURE TRANSITION
17th December 2015
South Africa is in the grip of the worst drought since 1992, with many parts of the country experiencing record temperatures and little to no rain. The maize and transport industries are currently planning for a worst-case scenario, where the continent’s largest maize producer – South Africa – may potentially need to import 4 million metric tons of maize due to the prolonged drought. It is against this backdrop that the South African government has granted approval to Monsanto for it to market its wholly inadequate and over-hyped ‘climate smart’ solution to drought– genetically modified (GM) drought tolerant maize, also known as ‘MON87460.’ The controversial maize was developed under the auspices of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) funded project called Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), currently operating in five African countries and aimed at ‘benefitting’ smallholder farmers.
The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has consistently opposed MON87460 as unproven, unsafe and inappropriate for resource-poor smallholders. The organisation has formally appealed against its approval for commercial cultivation in South Africa. The Minister of Agriculture, Mr Senzeni Zokwana, has advised the ACB on the 15th December 2015 that he has established an Appeal Board to
The expansion of the commercial seed sector in sub-Saharan Africa: Major players, key issues and trends
Sub Saharan Africa’s seed systems are undergoing a profound transition, with the private sector leading the way. This report outlines some of the major trends and activities of the major players involved in this, from Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the broader donor community.
Which way forward for Zambia’s smallholder farmers: Green Revolution input subsidies or agro-ecology?
The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) in partnership with the União Nacional de Camponeses (UNAC, National Peasants Union), and Kaleidoscopio has today released preliminary findings in a research project: ‘Agricultural investment activities in the Beira Corridor, Mozambique: Threats and opportunities for small-scale farmers.’ Joining Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi to the coast of Mozambique, the Beira Corridor plays a central role in the expansion of the Green Revolution project in Southern Africa.
The multi-donor Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor (BAGC) initiative has been established as Mozambique’s entry point for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The report explores small-scale farmers’ agro-ecological dynamics related to seed and soil fertility in Mozambique and the expansion of the Green Revolution project. The report considers the changing seed system in Mozambique, and the possible effects of regional seed agreements and laws on farmer-managed seed systems. The report also discusses private agro-dealers as key delivery mechanisms for Green Revolution technologies, especially improved seed, fertilizers and agrochemicals.
In Mozambique, most seed is still reproduced by farmers themselves, with some public sector and commercial activity. Mozambique’s plant variety protection (PVP) law prohibits farmers from reproducing and reusing protected seed varieties, even if these varieties are
Agricultural investment activities in the Beira Corridor, Mozambique: Threats and opportunities for small-scale farmers
Agricultural growth corridors are key tools for the expansion of the Green Revolution onto the African continent. In Southern Africa, the Beira Corridor – joining Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi to the coast of Mozambique – is one such corridor.
ACB has partnered with UNAC (the National Peasants’ Union) and Kaleidoscopio to produce a report that tracks the development of the Corridor, and links it to the broader Green Revolution thrust in Africa. The particular focus is on the multi-donor Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor (BAGC) initiative. The report also considers the changing seed system in Mozambique, and the possible effects of regional agreements and laws on farmer-managed seed systems. There is a section on agro-dealers as a key delivery mechanism for Green Revolution technologies, especially seed, fertilizer and agrochemicals, and reflections on the alternatives in farmer-based and public sector extension. Finally, the report considers activities around synthetic fertilizer production and distribution and the central role of the Beira Corridor in the Green Revolution strategy in Mozambique.
Statement issued by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)
On 06 July 2015, in Arusha, Tanzania, a Diplomatic Conference held under the auspices of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) adopted a harmonised regional legal framework for the protection of plant breeders’ rights—the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (the ‘Arusha PVP Protocol’).
The Arusha PVP Protocol is a slightly revised version of a previous Draft ARIPO Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (the ‘ARIPO PVP Protocol’). The previous Draft has come under consistent and severe attack by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) because it is based on a Convention known as UPOV 1991—a restrictive and inflexible international legal precept, totally unsuitable for Africa. Crucially, the ARIPO PVP Protocol proposed extremely strong intellectual property rights to breeders while restricting the age-old practices of African farmers freely to save, use, share and sell seeds and/or propagating material. These practices are the backbone of agricultural systems in Sub-Saharan Africa; they have ensured the production and maintenance of a diverse pool of genetic resources by farmers themselves, and have safe-guarded food and nutrition for tens of millions of Africans
The latest salvo in the battle over Africa’s seed systems has been fired, writes Stephen Greenberg, with the Gates Foundation and USAID playing puppet-masters to Africa’s governments – now meeting in Addis Ababa – as they drive forward corporation-friendly seed regulations that exclude and marginalize the small farmers whose seeds and labour feed the continent.
More than 80% of Africa’s seed supply currently comes from millions of small-scale farmers recycling and exchanging seed from year to year. This seed meets very diverse needs in very diverse conditions.
A battle is currently being waged over Africa’s seed systems. After decades of neglect and weak investment in African agriculture, there is renewed interest in funding African agriculture.
These new investments take the form of philanthropic and international development aid as well as private investment funds. They are based on the potentially huge profitability of African agriculture – and seed systems are a key target.
Right now ministers are co-ordinating their next steps at the 34th COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Intergovernmental Committee meeting that kicked off yesterday, 22nd March, in preparation for the main Summit that will follow on 30th and 31st March 2015.
COMESA’s key aim is
In this report, the ACB interrogates the Gates Foundation and Monsanto?s Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project and exposes it to be nothing more than corporate ?green washing,? designed to ensnare small holder farmers into adopting hybrid and GM maize in order to benefit seed and agro-chemical companies.