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AfricaFocus Bulletins on Food and Agriculture

Talking Points

  • International agencies agree that small farmers are indispensable to addressing poverty and food insecurity in Africa. But commercial monopolization of seeds and land grabs by both foreign and domestic investors make a mockery of international pledges to help small farmers, replicating international patterns of domination by large enterprises.

  • The most comprehensive international studies confirm that attention to small farmers can be most effective strategy in increasing food production and providing income to the rural population. But there are few effective controls on the rush of investment into land by speculators and commercial enterprises, while farmers lose their land and wait in vain for promised replacement jobs.

  • At the same time, multinational companies such as Monsanto, monopolizing the supply of commercial seeds and fertilizer, erode the independence of small farmers by pressuring governments to outlaw traditional practices of seed saving and sharing. In this, they are supported by public and private international donors, such as USAID and the Gates Foundation.

Bulletins

January 19, 2016  Africa: Stealth Assault on African Seeds http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/seed1601.php
    "There is a renewed and stronger assault on seed ... based on legal systems that permit exclusive rights over seeds on the spurious contention that plant varieties were 'discovered' and improved on. But these 'discovered' varieties are the product of the whole history of collective human improvements and maintenance carried out by peasants. To assert exclusive rights over the whole on the basis of small adjustments is nothing short of outright theft." - SouthSouth Dialogue, Durban, South Africa, November 2015

February 18, 2015  Africa: Privatizing Land and Seeds http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/ag1502.php
    "The G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition was launched in 2012 by the eight most industrialised countries to mobilise private capital for investment in African agriculture. To be accepted into the programme, African governments are required to make important changes to their land and seed policies. ... [for example] Despite the fact that more than 80% of all seed in Africa is still produced and disseminated through 'informal' seed systems (on-farm seed saving and unregulated distribution between farmers), there is no recognition in the New Alliance programme of the importance of farmer-based systems of saving, sharing, exchanging and selling seeds." - Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and GRAIN, January 2015

July 31, 2014  Africa/Global: Talking Points on Common Issues http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/tp1407.php
    As African leaders and corporate CEOs gather to meet with President Obama and U.S. government officials, a wide variety of civil society activists will also be meeting in Washington, some in officially recognized side events, others in alternative venues. Many more will be issuing statements and communicating their views, some appropriating the twitter hashtag #AfricaSummit used by U.S. government officials, thus inserting their views as well into that hashtag stream.

March 17, 2014  Africa/Global: The Right to Food http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/food1403.php
    "The right to food is the right of every individual, alone or in community with others, to have physical and economic access at all times to sufficient, adequate and culturally acceptable food that is produced and consumed sustainably, preserving access to food for future generations. ... Because of the various channels though which access to food can be achieved, the creation of decent jobs in the industry and services sectors plays an essential role in securing the right to food, as does the provision of social protection."- Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Final Report

November 9, 2013  Africa: Monopolizing Maize http://www.africafocus.org/docs13/food1311.php
    According to a new report from the African Centre for Biosafety, in South Africa, "Monsanto's Bt maize, MON810, has failed hopelessly in South Africa as a result of massive insect resistance, after only 15 years of its introduction into commercial agriculture." Yet the same variety is being promoted in other African countries by projects supported by Monsanto. And South Africa's supply of maize, a staple food, is dominated by a few large companies and consists almost entirely of GM crop varieties.

June 12, 2013  Africa: Underdeveloping African Agriculture http://www.africafocus.org/docs13/ag1306.php
    "These interventions from AGRA [Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa] and the G8 are, first and foremost, about opening markets and creating space for multinational corporations such as Yara, Monsanto and Cargill, to secure profits. ... As world leaders speak in philanthropic terms about 'ending hunger', behind the scenes Africa's seed and trade laws are being 'harmonised' to the whim of agri-business giants. The efforts of Africa's farmers over millennia stand to be privatised and expropriated, while traditional and vital practices such as seed saving and sharing stand to be criminalised." -- Francis Ngang, Secretary General of Inades-Formation (http://www.inadesfo.net/)

June 12, 2013  Mozambique: Agriculture Project Challenged http://www.africafocus.org/docs13/moz1306.php
    "We, the rural populations, families from the communities of the Nacala Corridor, religious organisations and Mozambican civil society, recognising the importance and urgency of combating poverty and promoting sustainable and sovereign development, believe it is timely and crucial to voice our concerns and proposals in relation to the ProSavana Programme. ... After several discussions at community level in the districts covered by this programme, with Mozambican Government authorities [and with representatives of Brazil and Japan], we find that there are many discrepancies and contradictions [confirming] defects in the programme design; irregularities in the alleged process of public consultation and participation; serious and imminent threat of usurpation of rural populations' lands and forced removal of communities from areas that they currently occupy." - Open letter to leaders of Mozambique, Brazil, and Japan, May 28, 2013

Feb 26, 2013  Zimbabwe: New Narrative on Land Reform, 1 http://www.africafocus.org/docs13/zim1302a.php
    Whether to take credit for it or to cast blame, both ZANU-PF and most of its critics attribute responsibility for the land reform in Zimbabwe since 2000 to the party of Robert Mugabe. Although much of the debate in the media about the book "Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land," has repeated this familiar point and counterpoint, the authors in fact deny this premise, arguing that the principal force behind the land reform and how it was implemented was not ZANU-PF but Zimbabwean farmers.

Feb 26, 2013  Zimbabwe: New Narrative on Land Reform, 2 http://www.africafocus.org/docs13/zim1302b.php
    "Under the fast track land reform, 169,000 farmers have received land since 2000. Most are small farmers under model A1, but the fast track also includes model A2 with land for wealthy people prepared to invest in largerscale commercial farming--maintaining the dual agriculture policy that had continued since the colonial era. The 146,000 A1 farmers moved quickly onto their land and are using more of the land than their white predecessors. A2 farm allocation was more competitive and politicized ... [nevertheless] The bulk of settlers are 'ordinary' people ... Undoubtedly some are political elites or what are sometimes called 'cronies,' which we guess to be 5% of farmers and 10% of land." - Hanlon, Mantengwa, and Smart, in Zimbabwe Takes Back the Land

Jan 23 2013  Africa/Global: Half of World's Food Lost to Waste http://www.africafocus.org/docs13/food1301.php
    "The world produces about four billion metric tonnes of food per year, but wastes up to half of this food through poor practices and inadequate infrastructure. By improving processes and infrastructure as well as changing consumer mindsets, we would have the ability to provide 60-100% more food to feed the world's growing population." - Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Sep 24, 2012  Africa: Shades of Green, 2 http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/ag1209b.php
    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: The Hidden Issue of "Gene Grabbing" http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/ag1209c.php
    "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, 1 http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/ag1209a.php
    "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 http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/sah1206.php
    "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 http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/ag1205a.php
    "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 http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/ag1205b.php
    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 http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/sl1205.php
    "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 http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/wb1205.php
    "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 http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/aid1106.php
    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: Agroecology & the Right to Food http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/rtf1103.php
    "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

Mar 11, 2011  Africa: Agriculture Gender Gap http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/fao1103.php
    "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

Oct 28, 2010  Africa: Questionable Land Investments http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/ag1010b.php
    "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 http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/ag1010a.php
    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."

Oct 28, 2010  Africa: Land Grab or Development? http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/ag1010c.php
    "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.

Jan 22, 2009  Africa: Agricultural Knowledge http://www.africafocus.org/docs09/ag0901.php
    "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

Jan 22, 2009  Africa: Subsidies that Work http://www.africafocus.org/docs09/sub0901.php
    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.

May 11, 2008  Africa: Commodity Dependence http://www.africafocus.org/docs08/sc0805b.php
    "We are living in a confusing time in the history of commodity markets. Commodity prices are currently high. Yet producers in Africa and other parts of the developing world do not seem to be benefiting from these high prices. ... The rich industrialised North has set the rules of the game, but instead of holding its producers accountable to those rules, it is distorting markets in their favour. Meanwhile, African producers whose governments have accepted to play by the rules are losing out.- - Dede Amanor-Wilks, ActionAid International

Apr 13, 2008  Africa: Food Alarm and New Proposals http://www.africafocus.org/docs08/wb0804.php
    This is the season for economic reports, and, as usual, the message is mixed. The World Bank and the Food and Agriculture are stressing the structural crisis caused by rising food prices, and propose some new remedies, both immediate and medium-term.

Dec 20, 2007  Africa: Seed Sharing or Biopiracy http://www.africafocus.org/docs07/bio0712.php
    "Sharing of seed is the essence of our planet's agricultural biodiversity. Without the open palm offering seeds, we all lose. Current policies, however, are closing the fist around seed, evident in the strong drive for individual access and monopoly ownership of genetic resources, as opposed to open access and collective principles of communities." - Andrew Mushita and Carol B. Thompson

Oct 24, 2007  Africa: Neglecting Agriculture, 1 http://www.africafocus.org/docs07/ag0710a.php
    "The central finding of the study is that the agriculture sector has been neglected by both governments and the donor community, including the World Bank. ..The Bank's limited and, until recently, declining support for addressing the constraints on agriculture has not been used strategically to meet the diverse needs of a sector that requires coordinated intervention across a range of activities." - World Bank Independent Evaluation Group

Oct 24, 2007  Africa: Neglecting Agriculture, 2 http://www.africafocus.org/docs07/ag0710b.php
    "For the first time in 25 years, the World Bank's annual Development Report (WDR 2008) is dedicated to agriculture. The report is a welcome indicator of renewed interest in agriculture worldwide that is urgently needed... [But] though the WDR 2008 makes a few guarded references to the mistakes made under structural adjustment programs, there is no place that adequately describes the responsibility of countries and firms who made irresponsible loans, or of the Bank itself for its rigid and often misguided programs " EcoFair Trade Dialogue

Sep 3, 2007  Sahel: Beyond Any Drought http://www.africafocus.org/docs07/sah0709.php
    "People blame locusts, drought and high food prices for the crisis that affected more than 3 million people in Niger in 2005, But these were just triggers. The real cause of the problem was that people there are chronically vulnerable. Two years later, they still are." - Vanessa Rubin, CARE International UK

Jun 29, 2007  Africa: Trade Disconnect http://www.africafocus.org/docs07/tr0706.php
    International trade talks are again on the edge of collapse after failure of the G4 (United States, EU, Brazil, and India) to reach agreement at a side meeting in Potsdam, Germany. Developing countries are increasingly vocal in their refusal to make new commitments for opening their markets without meaningful concessions from industrialized countries on such issues as agricultural subsidies.

Mar 17, 2007  Africa: Trade Unions Speak Out on Trade http://www.africafocus.org/docs07/tr0703.php
    Labor leaders from Brazil, India, South Africa and other developing countries spoke out earlier this month opposing demands by rich countries for sweeping cuts in tariffs. And global trade unions, formalizing new international ties, are also demanding that rich countries respond to the need for better terms for African cotton producers.

Nov 5, 2006  Africa: Up in Smoke? http://www.africafocus.org/docs06/clim0611.php
    "The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is historically a result of rich world activity. Therefore to be fair, the rich world should bear the full costs of adapting to climate change, at least in the early years." - Working Group on Climate Change and Development

Nov 5, 2006  Africa: Economics of Climate Change http://www.africafocus.org/docs06/ster0611.php
    "All countries will be affected. The most vulnerable - the poorest countries and populations - will suffer earliest and most, even though they have contributed least to the causes of climate change." - Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change

Oct 15, 2006  Africa: Rice Congress http://www.africafocus.org/docs06/rice0610.php
    Rice development will be one of the key testing grounds of whether Africa's new "Green Revolution" can avoid some of the failures of earlier Green Revolution efforts, and reduce African rice imports. Enthusiasts point to the Participatory Varietal Selection methods used by the Africa Rice Centre to disseminate new rice varieties, and to growth in small-farmer income as well as yields.

Oct 15, 2006  Africa: Green Revolution? http://www.africafocus.org/docs06/gr0610.php
    The Gates Foundation has joined with the Rockefeller Foundation in promoting a new "Green Revolution" in Africa. But will the new effort learn from the mistakes of earlier "Green Revolution" initiatives? Sceptics say that the new proposals still disregard the interests of small farmers and the environment.

Sep 10, 2006  Africa: Environmental Threats/Opportunities http://www.africafocus.org/docs06/unep0609.php
    Many of Africa's ecosystems are not just serving the region, but the whole world, for example, through the carbon soaking value of tropical forests. This alone probably equals or exceeds the current or exceeds the current level of international aid being provided to developing countries.

Feb 21, 2006  East Africa: Dams and Lake Victoria http://www.africafocus.org/docs06/vic0602.php
    Low water levels in Lake Victoria, at their lowest point in 50 years, are threatening the livelihood of people dependent on fishing, raising the prices of fish, and provoking shortages of water for electricity generation. And now a new report charges that the crisis is due not only to drought but also to overuse of the lake's water for power generation by existing powerplants. At the same time the Uganda government has signed a new $500 million contract for building a third power plant, on the Bujagali Falls. Environmentalists charge that the new plant is likely to have more negative effects and that the hope of providing more electricity will prove unsustainable.

Dec 16, 2005  Africa: Trade Talks Analysis, 1 http://www.africafocus.org/docs05/wto0512a.php
    "Any expectations that developing countries or the public might have of Hongkong marking progress to achieving 'development' in the Doha negotiations have been very much dashed. The 'Doha Development Agenda' (DDA) got its nickname when the developed countries pressurised the developing countries to accept a new Work Programme at the Doha Ministerial in November 2001. To cover the fact that the programme was really aimed at opening the markets of the South, the WTO secretariat leadership and the major developed countries dubbed it the DDA." - Third World Network

Dec 16, 2005  Africa: Trade Talks Analysis, 2 http://www.africafocus.org/docs05/wto0512b.php
    Having failed to come up with a joint proposal on agriculture that begins to satisfy the demands of developing countries, Europe and the United States have proposed a "development package" that they hope will preserve some image of success in the World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Hong Kong. But critics say whatever the face-saving agreements reached by the weekend, the results will clearly show no progress at all for poor countries in what was supposed to have been a "development round."

Oct 24, 2005  Africa: Cotton Producers Demand Results http://www.africafocus.org/docs05/cot0510.php
    Two years ago in Cancun, the issue of the damage done to African cotton producers by rich-country subsidies sparked the breakdown of world trade talks, highlighting the failure of rich countries to make this round of trade talks a "development round." In Geneva last week, African countries warned that their interests were still being ignored.

Oct 18, 2005  Southern Africa: Food Emergency Shortfall http://www.africafocus.org/docs05/food0510.php
    With attention diverted and disaster fatigue accentuated by response to the hurricanes in North America, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) as well as private agencies are finding responses slow to the earthquake in South Asia and to food crises in Africa. The WFP appeal for Niger, which briefly hit world headlines in July, has still only raised $36 million of its $58 million target; the appeal for 12 million people in Southern Africa has only raised $245 million out of an estimated $622 million needed.

Oct 15, 2005  Africa: Trade Smoke and Mirrors http://www.africafocus.org/docs05/ag0510.php
    In an effort to give momentum to international trade talks, the United States and the European Union this week released new offers to cut widely-criticized subsidies to rich-country farmers. The proposals have already provoked opposition from defenders of subsidies, including U.S. legislators and French officials. But non-governmental analysts say in fact the concessions to developing countries are "smoke and mirrors."

Sep 6, 2005  USA/Africa: Call for Food Aid Reform http://www.africafocus.org/docs05/iatp0509.php
    On August 26, just before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, the World Food Programme called for the international community not to turn away from Niger, as food contributions began to tail off with less than half of the budget funded. As subsequent images of devastated New Orleans both displaced and evoked comparisons with "Third World" catastrophes, there was abundant material for reflection on U.S. and international responses to entirely predictable disasters.

Jul 22, 2005  Niger: Background to Famine http://www.africafocus.org/docs05/nig0507.php
    With a BBC film crew in Niger broadcasting images of starving children to the world, food aid shipments to the country are starting to pick up. But UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland, who has repeatedly warned of neglected emergencies in African countries, told reporters that if donors had responded to earlier appeals, a child's life could have been saved for little more than a dollar a day. Now the estimated cost has risen to 80 times that, and for many it is too late.

Jul 5, 2005  Ghana: Playing Chicken http://www.africafocus.org/docs05/gh0507.php
    "For the last few years the Ghanaian market has been flooded with cheap imported chicken from the European Union and the United States. These are usually fatty chicken parts that come in packages without labels. Nonetheless, demand for local poultry has collapsed, threatening the livelihoods of over 400,000 poultry farmers in the small West African nation." - Corpwatch

Mar 23 2005  USA/Africa: Cotton Dumping http://www.africafocus.org/docs05/cot0503.php
    Pressure to reduce rich-country subsidies for agricultural exports ratchetted upward this month when the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued its final ruling that U.S. current payments to cotton farmers were illegal. The Bush administration's 2006 budget submitted to Congress proposes reduction in these subsidies by setting new upper limits on payments. But the outcome in Congress is uncertain, and African cotton farmers need more than promises of somewhat fairer terms for their exports in the distant future.

Sep 6, 2004  Africa: Trade Deception http://www.africafocus.org/docs04/tr0409.php
    Initial news stories from world trade talks in Geneva heralded rich country commitments to cut agricultural subsidies, celebrating the July 31 framework agreement as a victory for rich and poor countries alike. For those who followed the later dissection of the fine print, however, it quickly became apparent that the commitment was largely a "shell game," as James Flanagan put it in the Los Angeles Times (Aug. 15, 2004).

Jul 31, 2004  Africa: Trade Talks Background http://www.africafocus.org/docs04/tr0407.php
    Discussions continued beyond Friday's midnight deadline in world trade talks in Geneva, as major countries pressed for wording compromises that would avoid an obvious breakdown. West African cotton-producing countries reportedly accepted a U.S. pledge to deal with the issue of cotton subsidies expeditiously within the wider agriculture negotiations. Even if disagreements are papered over, however, fair trade campaigners note that the text remains deeply unbalanced in favor of rich countries, with their commitments under the framework text still vague and ambiguous in comparison with concessions exacted from developing countries.

May 14, 2004  Africa: Cotton Update http://www.africafocus.org/docs04/cot0405.php
    "This system [of U.S. cotton subsidies] pits a typical Malian producer, farming two hectares of cotton, who is lucky to gross $400 a year, against US farms which receive a subsidy of $250 per hectare." - Oxfam. The World Trade Organization (WTO) will soon issue a formal ruling, in response to a Brazilian and African challenge, declaring these U.S. subsidies in violation of international trade rules. This changes the climate for international trade talks, but no policy shifts that could directly affect African farmers are yet imminent.

Mar 16, 2004  Congo (Kinshasa): Forests under Threat http://www.africafocus.org/docs04/rf0403.php
    Central Africa is the region having the richest rainforest resources on the continent, and its Congo basin is second only to the Amazon among the world's rainforest regions. How these resources are used and who controls their "development" are issues that deserve wide debate. Yet new legislation to permit rapid expansion in logging is being introduced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on the advice of the World Bank, without significant consultation with civil society or people living in forest areas.

Mar 9, 2004  Africa: Commodity Trap http://www.africafocus.org/docs04/unct0403.php
    Africa remains caught in a "commodity trap," says a new report on trade performance and commodity dependence from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Africa is less competitive than in previous decades even in traditional primary commodities, its trade position undermined both by competition from Asia and Latin America and by agricultural subsidies in rich countries. Market solutions have aggravated this structural vulnerability, and it is time to reconsider a greater role for both national and international state actions, UNCTAD concludes.

Feb 4, 2004  Africa: Rice for the Future http://www.africafocus.org/docs04/rice0401.php
    Only two decades ago, rice was considered a luxury food in West Africa, comments Dr. Kanayo Nwanze of the West African Rice Development Association (WARDA). Now it is a staple, accounting for more than 25% of cereal consumption. Import growth has consistently outpaced growth in production. But new rice varieties developed by WARDA researchers give hope that Africa could rapidly increase domestic production.

Nov 16, 2003  Africa: Agriculture Strategic, Neglected http://www.africafocus.org/docs03/fao0311.php
    "Unfortunately, development partners have paid much less attention to agriculture and rural development over the past two decades," commented Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a speech last week. "The World Bank, the major funding source for Africa, targeted 39 percent of its lending in 1978 to the agricultural sector in Africa. By 2002, this proportion had dropped to 6 percent."