There are concerns, fears and anger that AGRA billions funding food insecurity in Africa, discounting claims of AGRA empowering 30 million smallholder farmer households.
AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, is a multimillion-dollar agriculture project funded by the Bill Gates Foundation in Tanzania, just like in many other African countries where it operates..
Now critics want the funders to pull the plug, why?
AGRA was created in 2006 to bring about a green revolution to several African countries by developing their agricultural corridors. However, AGRA critics allege that the organisation has ‘fooled’ donors with over-ambitious goals like claims to ‘double the yields and incomes of 30 million smallholder households in 11 countries by the end of 2021.’ They say that AGRA billions funding food insecurity in Africa is in contrast to what the entity promises and presents as success.
Well, one year after the deadline, little to no progress has been achieved; in fact, the exact opposite is true; food insecurity has only worsened in almost all countries where AGRA operates despite millions of dollars in funding from the Bill Gates Foundation and other donors.
‘Studies show that since AGRA’s founding, food insecurity increased by 31% in the countries in which AGRA operates.’
This fact stands despite the millions of dollars given to AGRA annually by large organizations like the Bill Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID and the governments of the UK and Germany, to mention a few.
According to the Oakland Institute, even AGRA’s creation was planned without African voices, and imposes quick-fix technological solutions….’
- Food insecurity has worsened in almost all countries where AGRA operates.
- Critics want Bill Gates Foundation and others to stop funding AGRA.
- Studies show that since AGRA’s founding, food insecurity has increased by 31% in the countries in which AGRA operates.
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Worse still, the institute points to a much deeper conspiracy to force the 30 million smallholder farmer households to buy agro-inputs from large corporations. In its report, the Oakland Institute says AGRA ‘imposes a regime in which farmers lose power over their own seeds and are forced to buy them back from large corporations year after year.’
“This system may also contribute to the marginalization of women. 9 million smallholder farmer households, who are witnessing increased food insecurity through AGRA’s direct interventions,” reads the report in part.
Then there is the matter overarching matter of climate change. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser will increase nitrous oxide emissions, which will increase the atmospheric temperature significantly.
In its defence, in its Half-Year 2020 M&E Progress Report, AGRA argues that “…10.14 million farmers (76% of target) are benefiting from extension activities and 7.72 million farmers adopted improved and yield-enhancing technologies. Farmers benefiting from AGRA’s support reported an increase in the number of months with sufficient food supply from 9.2 in 2016 to 11 months in 2019,” a very stark contrast to the allegations raised by critics.
Just last year, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) made public an open letter with numerous signatories (200 plus), all affirming that AGRA had “failed in its mission to increase productivity and incomes and reduce food insecurity.”
It should be noted that the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) is actually Africa’s largest civil society network that is made up of 35 groups that comprise some 200 million food producers,
According to AFSA, AGRA is only “disenfranchising the 30 million smallholder farmer households that they claim to support,” and the organization is not alone. The number of AGRA critics is increasing every year and is very diverse, ranging from food security organizations to farmers to religious leaders; all want Bill Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID and others to stop funding AGRA.
Critics want donors to stop funding AGRA
Not only are the critics asking international donors like the Bill Gates Foundation to stop funding AGRA, but they also want a change in the mechanism that AGRA uses. For example, critics want a shift from imported fossil-fuel-based fertilisers and chemicals and for farmers to use self-sufficient, ecological farming techniques instead.
“We need Afrocentric solutions to our problems, and our problems ought not to be settled or resolved by people external to the continent… AGRA is investing a lot in chemical fertilizers,” laments Anne Maina of the Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya.
The expert alleges further that AGRA is more focused on agribusiness, specifically ‘intensified chemical use on the soil, intensified use of pesticides, and the push for monoculture.’
Critics want to see increased use of ‘locally sourced inputs, not chemical-based imports. For example, AGRA critics want increased use of animal manure along with additives like ash and rock dust, all of which can be accessed easily, affordably and locally.
“Promoting these bio-fertilisers will contribute to the recycling of local wastes for healthy soils, and this can support the diverse cropping and animal systems,” says Ferdinand Wafula of Bio Gardening Innovations.
So if AGRA critics don’t want AGRA’s green revolution and want Bill Gates Foundation to stop funding it, what are they proposing to replace it?
“What African farmers need is support to find communal solutions that increase climate resilience, rather than top-down profit-driven industrial-scale farming systems,” said Francesca de Gasparis, the executive director of the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI).
An impact assessment that was conducted in 2020 by Timothy A. Wise from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found ‘no comprehensive evaluations of AGRA’s progress in meeting its goals by AGRA itself or by its major donors.’
It is alleged that AGRA refused to release data on its beneficiaries during the impact assessment. This led the research to seek a different approach to assess AGRA’s impact in the countries that it operates. by withholding the data, critics say that evidence points to AGRA billions funding food insecurity in Africa.
“I chose to examine data from AGRA’s 13 priority countries to see if there were indications of a productivity revolution with rising incomes and improved food security. I found little evidence of significant productivity improvements,” reported the researcher.
“For a basket of staple crops, Wise found that productivity increased just 18 per cent over 12 years. That is nowhere near the goal of doubling productivity, which would be a 100 per cent increase,” Wise concluded.
Worse still, the United Nations provides very shocking figures noting that ‘the number of severely undernourished people in AGRA’s 13 focus countries has increased by 30 per cent since 2006.’ This supports the critics allegations that AGRA is disadvantaging the 30 million smallholder farmer households.
On 12 July 2021, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) annual hunger report showed that there has been ‘an unprecedented increase in severe hunger from 2019 to 2020 with an increase of up to 25 per cent over the 2019 levels.
“In sub-Saharan Africa, about 44 million more people faced severe malnutrition in 2020, with 30 per cent of the continent’s population struggling to feed their families,” reads the report in part.
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The FAO report shows that more than 65 per cent of Africa’s population faced what it described as moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020, up from 51 per cent in 2014, an increase of 244 million food-insecure people in just six years. AGRA was operational and funded in excess of billions of dollars in all this time.
Much remains to be decided as to the fate of AGRA, or more importantly, the fate of millions of Africans who now face reduced food output and increased hunger despite so much money being issued to an organ that is not meeting its objectives. Now AGRA critics want Bill Gates Foundation and other donors to stop funding AGRA.
Author: Giza Mdoe