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AfricaFocus Bulletins on Food and Agriculture - 2009-2012

Sep 24, 2012  Africa: The Hidden Issue of "Gene Grabbing"
    "Patents on the sorghum genome are the contemporary biotech equivalent of an 18th Century European explorer planting his flag on an ill-understood foreign land and claiming it for himself or his sovereign, as if by divine right subordinating all other interests in the territory." - African Centre for Biodiversity

Sep 24, 2012  Africa: Shades of Green, 2
    The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the centerpiece of donor-initiated plans for agricultural development in Africa, is replete with positive language about food security, sustainable development, and attention to smallholder farmers. And, notes a new report from the African Centre for Biodiversity, it also recognizes many of the limitations of previous Green Revolution experiences in Asia and Latin America. Nevertheless, the Centre argues, its emphasis on incorporating African agricultural production into global value chains ignores the likely outcome of increased dependence by farmers on large multinational corporations, which will reap the largest share of the rewards.

Sep 24, 2012  Africa: Shades of Green, 1
    "AGRA adopts a fairly good critique of prior approaches to support for African agriculture, including systematic under- investment, the historical focus on large-scale agriculture and standardised technologies, and efforts to transfer technologies developed elsewhere which were inappropriate to the context (both seed and manufactured fertilisers). ... [but there is a hidden agenda of privatization] behind the humanitarian façade." - African Centre for Biodiversity

Jun 7, 2012  West Africa: Sahel Food Crisis
    "The high prices of basic foods are the most alarming feature of the current Sahel crisis, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Prices are expected to keep rising until the end of August - during the lean season - but the size of recent hikes has surprised food price analysts and humanitarian aid personnel." - IRIN humanitarian news and analysis

May 24, 2012  Africa: Food Security and Human Development
    "This [Africa Human Development] Report argues that subSaharan Africa can extricate itself from pervasive food insecurity by acting on four critical drivers of change: greater agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers; more effective nutrition policies, especially for children; greater community and household resilience to cope with shocks; and wider popular participation and empowerment, especially of women and the rural poor."

May 24, 2012  Africa: G8 Detour on Food Security
    The Camp David summit of the G-8 countries, held on May 17-18, announced a "New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition," pitched as potentially raising 60 billion people out of poverty over the next 10 years. But the program as announced, featuring some $3 billion in investment pledges by 45 private agribusiness companies, was grotesquely out of sync with international commitments to respecting country-owned plans and prioritizing broad-based public investment to benefit smallholder farmers.

May 3, 2012  Sierra Leone: Resisting Land Deals
    "While the government of Sierra Leone says it is now supporting farmers with its smallholder commercialization program, at the same time it is promoting massive foreign direct investment in farmland in the country. It claims this will not harm smallholders or food security. ... Participants at the conference [of affected land owners and land users] strongly disagreed." - The Oakland Institute

May 3, 2012  Africa: Pushing Land Deals
    "Whereas WBG's [the World Bank Group's] mandate is to 'reduce poverty and improve living standards through sustainable development and investment in people,' its work largely strays from this mission in that, by promoting investor access to land, it actually tends to threaten rather than improve food security and local livelihoods in developing countries." - The Oakland Institute

Jun 1, 2011  Africa: "Aid" Promises and Accountability
    The G8 "accountability report" on increased aid spending "covers up $18 billion aid shortfall by ignoring inflation," headlined a Guardian article reporting critiques of the report by aid groups. It should be no surprise that "donor" countries try to put the best possible spin on their accomplishments. But the pressure is growing for more transparent and independent reporting on international spending classified as "aid."

Mar 11, 2011  Africa: Agriculture Gender Gap
    "Just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent. This could raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent, or 100 to 150 million people. An estimated 925 million people in the world were undernourished in 2010, of which 906 million live in developing countries." - The State of Food and Agriculture, FAO, March 2011

Mar 11, 2011  Africa: Agroecology & the Right to Food
    "Small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods, a new UN report shows. Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the study calls for a fundamental shift towards agroecology as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest." - Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Oct 28, 2010  Africa: Land Grab or Development?
    "While there is a perception that land is abundant in certain countries, these claims need to be treated with caution. In many cases land is already being used or claimed - yet existing land uses and claims go unrecognised because land users are marginalised from formal land rights and access to the law and institutions. And even in countries where some land is available, large-scale land allocations may still result in displacement as demand focuses on higher value lands." - joint report from FAO, IFAD, and the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Oct 28, 2010  Africa: Questionable Land Investments
    "Africa needs investment in agriculture--better seeds and inputs, improved extension services, education on conservation techniques, regional integration, and investment to build local capacity. It does not need policies that enable foreign investors to grow and export food for their own people to the detriment of the local population." - Howard G. Buffett

Oct 28, 2010  Africa: Land, Take 2
    A World Bank report leaked to the Financial Times in late July on "The Global Land Rush" reportedly documented a devastating picture of weak land governance and poorly thought-out investments, despite a few examples of the sustainable and equitable investment practices it called for. By the time the report was published in September, the title had become "Rising Global Interest in Farmland."

Jan 22, 2009  Africa: Subsidies that Work
    In the 2008/2009 agricultural season, Malawi is spending $186 million to subsidize fertilizer and seeds for poor farmers, tripling the previous year's figure of $62 million. Malawi's success in this program, against donor advice, has made the country a grain exporter and helped contain food costs. The emerging consensus is that such subsidies are essential for African agriculture. In November the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization rewarded Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika, who also serves as his country's Minister of Agriculture, with the Agricola Prize.

Jan 22, 2009  Africa: Agricultural Knowledge
    "The key message of the report [by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)] is that small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods provide the way forward to avert the current food crisis and meet the needs of local communities. More equitable trade arrangements and increased investments in science and technologies and in sharing knowledge that support agroecologically based approaches in both small farm and larger scale sectors are urgently required." - Civil Society Statement, April 2008