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Food and Agriculture

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Talking Points

  • International agencies agree that small farmers are key 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. This replicates the takeover of land and agriculture by agribusiness in the United States and other rich countries.

  • Studies have found that attention to small farmers can be the most effective strategy for 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. Farmers who lose their land wait in vain for promised replacement jobs. In South Africa and Namibia, the issue of land distribution remains unresolved.

  • At the same time, multinational companies such as Monsanto, which monopolize 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. The companies' monopolistic strategies are supported by public and private international donors, such as USAID and the Gates Foundation.

U.S.-based Monsanto is one of the largest global agribusiness companies. Its business relies on expanding commercial control over rights to seeds.


Most recent bulletins on food and agriculture

January 19, 2016  Africa: Stealth Assault on African Seeds
    "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
    "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
    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
    "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
    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  Mozambique: Agriculture Project Challenged
    "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

June 12, 2013  Africa: Underdeveloping African Agriculture
    "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 (

Feb 26, 2013  Zimbabwe: New Narrative on Land Reform, 2
    "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

Feb 26, 2013  Zimbabwe: New Narrative on Land Reform, 1
    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.

Jan 23 2013  Africa/Global: Half of World's Food Lost to Waste
    "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, 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

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.

Complete listing of bulletins on food and agriculture, 2003-present